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Vaccinate the world through Christian compassion says Bishop of Durham

by Donna Birrell

The Bishop of Durham is calling on the government to redouble its efforts to establish a global approach to vaccine donation.

It comes as the World Health Organisation's special envoy on Covid-19, David Nabarro said richer countries need to step up to help poorer nations struggling with vaccine supplies.

The UK has just secured 114 million booster doses which will secure the booster programme here for the next two years.

The Rt Rev Paul Butler tells Premier a committed global approach to vaccine sharing and distribution is vital - and is at the heart of Christian compassion.

"There's a real concern that 70 per cent of people in Europe have had at least the first dose, [compared to] only 7 per cent of people in Africa and you could look at inequity in other parts of the world. The reality is that whether you look at it completely altruistically, and from a Christian perspective, we ought to be caring for the most vulnerable, and we ought to be sharing with the most vulnerable and the most needy…But there's an altruistic thing. Variants know no national boundaries, they don't decide whereabouts they're going to emerge, and they will find their way to us and to all the wealthier nations. So it's in our own interest to vaccinate the world and to do it as fast as possible.

"We should simply be caring for the poorest and the most needy and we're in a position to supply vaccinations. What is particularly disturbing is to hear that sometimes vaccinations are being destroyed, because they've gone out of date, when there are millions or billions of people around the world they could have been delivered to.

"It's not just the UK government, it's Western governments as a whole that need to step up much more fully. There's also the whole business around enabling the production of more vaccines in other countries through lifting patents and so on. So there's all those issues that have to be dealt with. We undoubtedly could do more and we will simply keep up the pressure, that it should be done."

G7 countries have around 800 million excess vaccine doses - most of which have an expiry date of six months.

Christian Aid says the UK has delivered just 11 per cent of promised vaccine doses for developing countries and only this month disposed of 600,000 AstraZeneca vaccine doses which had expired.

Responding to a speech on the subject by the Bishop of Durham in the House of Lords, Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park, on behalf of the Government said: "The government ….is committed to supporting rapid, equitable access to safe and effective vaccines through multilateral co-operation to end the acute phase of this pandemic.

"That is why the UK supports the COVAX facility and was one of the first countries to do so. It is, as the right reverend Prelate knows, a multilateral mechanism that supports access by pooling resources to accelerate the development, manufacture and delivery of vaccines.

"More than 537 million vaccines have so far been delivered globally through that scheme."


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