Britain will start sending 9 million doses of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine around the world this week, the first shots the UK has sent to developing nations during the pandemic.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said 5 million doses are being sent to the UN-backed Covax vaccine distribution programme, while another 4 million will be sent directly to countries including Indonesia, Jamaica and Kenya.
Mr Raab said he wants to speed up the global population vaccination programme, so that everyone is inoculated by next year.
Britain has one of the world’s highest inoculation rates against the virus, with more than 70 per cent of adults fully vaccinated, and has faced calls from activists and medics to donate doses to the many countries that lack vaccines.
As part of the vaccine donation, the UK will offer 817,000 doses to Kenya to support efforts to combat the pandemic, with the first 400,000 doses leaving the UK this week.
“As friends and allies, we are sharing UK vaccine doses to support Kenya’s fight against the pandemic. From boosting economic growth to addressing climate change and getting girls into school, the UK and Kenya are working hand-in-hand to deliver a more secure and prosperous world,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.
The shipments are the first of Britain’s promise to donate 100 million doses by June 2022.
“We know that we won’t be safe until everyone is safe. We’ve committed to provide 100 million doses of a vaccine from surplus domestic supply to the poorest, most vulnerable countries around the world by the middle of next year,” said Mr Raab.
“The first batch of 9 million doses will be going out on Friday. And they will go to countries, vulnerable places like Laos and Cambodia, partners like Indonesia and Malaysia, a range of Commonwealth countries from Kenya to Jamaica.
“And this demonstrates we are not just doing it because it’s in our own interest, it shows that global Britain is a life-saving force for good in the world.”
Mr Raab said that under the current rate of vaccination the world would not be vaccinated until 2024, and he urged other countries to donate vaccines to poorer nations to bring that date forward.
“We know on the current trajectory the world will only be adequately vaccinated at 2024, at the end,” he said. “We want to get that date back to the middle of next year and that will make a massive difference to those countries affected.”
Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance that is leading Covax with the World Health Organisation and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, said the UK vaccines would help the world beat Covid-19.
“Global vaccine demand is far outstripping supply, leaving millions of the most vulnerable unprotected, while higher vaccine coverage worldwide is one of our best shields against new variants.” said Gavi chief executive Dr Seth Berkley.
Indonesia will receive 600,000 doses and 300,000 will be sent to Jamaica. The UK has also signed agreements with Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Cambodia, Guyana, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Thailand and Vietnam, to receive up to 4 million doses.
The UK is donating the University of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, made by Oxford Biomedica in Oxford and packaged in Wrexham, North Wales.
The UK and Kenya are co-hosting a Global Education Summit this week to raise $5 billion over the next five years to help boost learning for 175 million vulnerable children. World leaders, businesses, charities, education experts and youth ambassadors are expected to attend the event in London.
A number of new investments have been announced as Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatt visits London, including clean tech developments, a fund for building 10,000 green affordable homes and financing for the expansion of off-grid solar energy in western Kenya.