Boris Johnson must honour the promises he made at the G7 to deliver Covid vaccines
The UK made pledges to deliver surplus vaccines to other countries who needed them
It will be an absolute disgrace if the UK falls short of its promises to provide surplus Covid-19 vaccines to the world's poorest countries.
As I write this, world leaders are concluding their talks at the G7, where many urgent topics will have been discussed, including vaccine equality. As the Prime Minister’s trip to Germany comes to an end, the government appears to be at grave risk of breaking its flagship pledge which it made when the UK hosted the last G7 meeting in Cornwall.
Today, Prime Minister Boris Johnson would to have had the nerve to look other world leaders in the eye when he has betrayed the promises he made at his own summit last year. This is so reputationally damaging to our country.
The government made a realistic and relatively achievable pledge to our G7 partners of sharing 100 million surplus Covid-19 vaccines with the world’s poorest countries. And, let’s be clear, we aren’t talking about vital doses that were so needed by the British public. These are doses that would have otherwise expired and gone to waste instead of going to those in vital need.
As of 26 May 2022, only 36.5 million vaccines had been delivered, putting the UK on course to miss its target by 63.5 million doses. If we compare UK commitment to the United States, they promised to share 500 million doses by June 2022. They hit their target in March.
If the UK falls this short of the mark, by 63.5 million doses, it is an absolute disgrace. In the middle of a global crisis, it’s unconscionable for Johnson to break his promises and cut aid spending to pay for vaccines we have spare. We need world leaders to come together and galvanise action to tackle the biggest challenges facing us all.
Missing this humanitarian target by more than 60 per cent is indefensible and we must remember that there is a stark vaccine divide across the world. While many in the UK have been vaccinated three or four times, just one in five Africans having received a single dose.
The Prime Minister also promised that this would not be priced against the UK aid budget but yet again, but it appears that Johnson and his government has used the policy to make stealth cuts to the UK aid budget. Having already reduced UK aid spending by over £4 billion that year, the Prime Minister promised that the price of surplus vaccine donations to poor countries would not come out of the reduced aid budget. However, I’ve now seen that this promise was not kept and £100.4m was taken out of the UK aid budget last year for the cost of vaccines the UK had going spare.
If the government accounts for the remaining 76.7 million vaccines against the aid budget again, a further £330m could be cut this year. This is against a backdrop of the World Bank expecting 198 million people who will be pushed into poverty across the globe this year as a result of the pandemic.
This government has undermined the UK’s global standing. Only last week, USAID chief Samantha Power singled out the UK for criticism over the aid cuts to Sub-Saharan Africa. This is why I am writing today. To call on the Prime Minister to do the right thing and to either step down or to keep his promises on the world stage rather than furthering Britain’s global retreat. We must now see a strong government that will restore Britain's reputation as a reliable international partner focused on the global challenges facing us all.
Preet Kaur Gill is the shadow international development secretary
Get the inside track on what MPs and Peers are talking about. Sign up to The House's morning email for the latest insight and reaction from Parliamentarians, policy-makers and organisations.