The Archbishop of Canterbury has criticised Canada for massively over-ordering supplies of coronavirus vaccine, hindering the rollout of jabs to the world’s poorest nations.
The Most Rev Justin Welby told Parliament the North American country had in the pipeline more than five times what it needed for the size of its population.
The Church of England leader highlighted surplus stocks as one of the main obstacles to a global vaccination campaign, along with misinformation and logistical challenges.
His comments came after the head of the United Nations urged the world act with far greater solidarity to ensure vaccines are available and affordable in all countries.
Speaking recently, Secretary General Antonio Guterres said governments had a responsibility to protect their people, “but ‘vaccinationalism’ is self-defeating and will delay a global recovery”.
Meanwhile, the House of Lords heard the UK had committed £548 million to the World Health Organisation’s Covax programme to support access to Covid-19 vaccines for up to 92 developing countries.
Responding, Mr Welby said: “We must welcome very warmly this exceptionally moral leadership in this remarkable donation to the Covax programme which I think is the largest of any country.”
He added: “However, in order to make the money work… we need a global vaccination campaign if we are to overcome this global pandemic.
“There are three obstructions in particular to overcome.
“One is the use of surplus supplies of vaccine.
“Canada for example has ordered more than five times what it needs for the population.
“Secondly, to overcome misinformation which is being deliberately spread about the vaccines and mythical dangers or false stories about it.
“And thirdly, in many parts of the countries that will need it the immense logistic difficulties of distributing it.
“In order to make the most of the leadership we have set financially and given our expertise and experience and success in the rollout in this country, what will the Government be doing to validate that gift by overcoming these three challenges?”
Foreign minister Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon said: “On the issue of countries who have oversubscribed, some countries have already announced plans for that, we are not in that position but others have, about how they will look at distribution.
“We would implore upon them that the most equitable way is through supporting that distribution through the Covax facility… for the very reason that they have the most effective infrastructure and network to allow for the equitable and fast-paced distribution of the vaccine as it is rolled out.”
He added: “At a time when people are concerned, at a time when people are worried it is actually deeply concerning and highly regrettable that there are some in the world who are putting out misinformation on vaccines which have already been tested and approved… and we must come together to tackle that and provide proper information.”
Lord Ahmad also said UK would be working through its international networks to assist the deployment of vaccines.