The UK has begun sending Covid-19 vaccines to countries around the world, with the first batch taking off for Guyana and Belize.
They were loaded on to a plane at Heathrow Airport outside London and represent the first of nine million doses being sent to countries including Kenya, Indonesia and Jamaica.
The UK has promised to directly send 100 million vaccines by June 2022 to a mix of developing countries and crown dependencies as well as to the Covax programme, which distributes vaccines to the world’s poorest nations.
“The UK is sending nine million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine, the first batch of the 100 million doses we’ve pledged, to get the most vulnerable parts of the world vaccinated as a matter of urgency,” said Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.
“We’re doing this to help the most vulnerable, but also because we know we won’t be safe until everyone is safe.”
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. 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, the Philippines, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Thailand and Vietnam for up to four million doses.
Another five million will be sent to Covax in the tranche of shipments that started on Friday.
The UK is donating the University of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, packaged in Wrexham, North Wales.
“This is a global pandemic and Covid-19 vaccines are the best way to protect people and prevent the emergence of new variants,” said Health Secretary Sajid Javid.
“We want to make sure developing countries can build a wall of defence against the virus as we have in the UK through our vaccine roll-out.”
He added that the government has secured enough doses for all UK residents, crown dependencies and overseas territories to support its continuing vaccination and booster programmes.
“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 Dr Seth Berkley, chief executive of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which is co-leading Covax with the World Health Organisation.