Opinion

Our open letter to the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson

In an open letter ahead of the G7 Summit, our Director Jeremy Farrar and Steven Waugh, Executive Director at the UK Committee for UNICEF (UNICEF UK) urge the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, to show historic leadership and begin sharing vaccines with the world.

Health workers in the vaccination room during the COVID-19 vaccination campaign on May 5, 2021 in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo.

Health workers in the vaccination room during the COVID-19 vaccination campaign on May 5, 2021 in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo. The central African country received 1.7 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine through the United Nations-led COVAX facility in March.

Credit:

Guerchom Ndebo / Getty Images

Dear Prime Minister, 

Covid-19 is the greatest challenge of our time. Thanks to a tremendous global effort, science has given us the exit strategy. UK Science has been core to breath-taking advances that gave the world Covid-19 vaccines in record time.  We should be proud of the role we’ve played.   

At home, the UK vaccination rollout has been a phenomenal success and has already saved countless lives. Yet, globally too many countries still lack doses to protect healthcare workers and the most vulnerable.

As President of the G7, the UK has the opportunity to set the standard for global action on sharing doses.  Three months ago, you proudly pledged that the UK would share vaccines with the world. Now we ask that you turn this pledge into reality.

The staggering progress with our national roll-out, combined with everyone playing their part in respecting tough but necessary restrictions, means we are on the cusp of all restrictions lifting.  

Freedom will however be short lived if the UK fails to share access to the huge supply of vaccines it has secured – enough to fully vaccinate the entire UK population twice over.   

As long as the virus continues to circulate, it will continue to mutate. We have already seen first-hand how quickly new variants can emerge and travel. We cannot rule out variants against which our vaccines and treatments no longer work.  

COVAX, the international vaccine equity initiative is 190 million doses short of where it needs to be. High-income countries, including the UK and G7, which have secured the majority of existing supplies are the only ones who can makes doses available right now.  

We can share vaccines now and still meet UK vaccination targets. The truth is, the UK cannot afford not to share its vaccines. The world won’t be safe while any single country is still fighting the virus. Failing to act now risks reversing our hard-won progress. 

The UK must now show the historic leadership needed to end this crisis, by sharing at least 20% of available doses between now and August and calling on G7 together to commit to sharing 1 billion doses over 2021 and fully fund the ACT-Accelerator. This is both achievable and essential if we are to have a real impact on the pandemic. It must start at once, with a clear plan for how this will be scaled up as countries become more protected. 

This is the best way to protect the UK, end the pandemic as quickly as possible and save the greatest number of lives. It’s our best shot of life returning to normal.   

Decisions made at this week’s summit will define the 21st century.  We ask you and other G7 leaders to rise to this challenge and end this crisis for good.

We will only beat this virus by acting globally.  

Yours sincerely,  

Prof Sir Jeremy Farrar, Director of the Wellcome Trust  

Steven Waugh, Executive Director, The United Kingdom Committee for UNICEF (UNICEF UK)

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