The UK will donate at least 100 million surplus COVID vaccine doses to other countries within the next year, Boris Johnson has pledged.
As he prepares to welcome world leaders to Cornwall for the G7 summit, the prime minister has vowed to “take a massive step towards beating this pandemic for good”.
Mr Johnson’s action builds on his request for the world’s leading democracies to help vaccinate the entire globe by the end of next year.
At this weekend’s summit, it is hoped G7 leaders will announce a commitment to providing at least one billion coronavirus vaccine doses to the rest of the world through dose sharing and financing.
US President Joe Biden has already offered to match half that target, by pledging to purchase 500 million doses of the Pfizer COVID vaccine to donate to poorer countries.
Under the UK’s own commitment, five million doses will be donated by the end of September this year – beginning in the coming weeks – primarily for use in the world’s poorest countries.
Mr Johnson has also committed to donating a further 95 million doses within the next year, including 25 million more by the end of 2021.
Of the 100 million doses, 80% will go to the international COVAX vaccine-sharing programme, with the remainder to be shared bilaterally with countries in need.
The government said the first donation of five million doses would not delay the completion of the UK’s initial domestic vaccination programme.
Ministers also hope that by helping to vaccinate more people around the world, not only will it help bring an end to the pandemic, it will also reduce the threat posed by vaccine-resistant variants emerging in areas with large-scale outbreaks.
The prime minister said: “Since the start of this pandemic the UK has led the way in efforts to protect humanity against this deadly disease.
“Over a year ago we funded the development of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine on the basis it would be distributed at cost to the world.
“This unprecedented model, which puts people squarely above profit, means over half a billion doses have been administered in 160 countries so far.
“As a result of the success of the UK’s vaccine programme we are now in a position to share some of our surplus doses with those who need them.
“In doing so we will take a massive step towards beating this pandemic for good.
“At the G7 summit I hope my fellow leaders will make similar pledges so that, together, we can vaccinate the world by the end of next year and build back better from coronavirus.”
Mr Johnson will also ask G7 leaders to encourage pharmaceutical companies to adopt the Oxford-AstraZeneca model of providing vaccines at cost for the duration of the COVID pandemic.
However, the Cornwall summit could also see some leaders further their push for the waiving of vaccine patents – something opposed by other countries, including the UK and Germany.
Ahead of his arrival in Cornwall, French President Emmanuel Macron posted on Twitter: “Dose sharing, opening up of intellectual property, financing of health systems. It’s up to the G7 to get involved!”
Waiving intellectual property protections for coronavirus vaccines has also been backed by Mr Biden’s administration.