UK's Gordon Brown gives warning 100 million vaccines will expire soon

It is 'unthinkable and unconscionable' that vaccines will have to be thrown away, WHO envoy and former British prime minister says

The World Health Organisation's incoming ambassador for health financing, Gordon Brown, has criticised rich countries for failing to help put vaccines in the hands of poor nations as a “staggering” stockpile of 100 million Covid vaccines are about to expire.

A study of vaccine supply, by research group Airfinity, has been sent by Mr Brown to politicians including US president Joe Biden, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and EU leaders, before a global vaccine summit on Wednesday.

“Our immediate task is to work together to finance the vaccination of the whole world and protect the poorest countries from the terrible effects of Covid-19 and other diseases,” he said.

Mr Brown, a former British prime minister, was appointed as ambassador for health financing by WHO chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Mr Brown has been campaigning tirelessly in recent months for wealthy nations and the private sector to ensure the equitable distribution of Covid-19 vaccines.

He is calling for a concerted global effort to save lives, especially in poorer countries, to help end the pandemic and restore livelihoods the world over.

Airfinity said its research showed that by the end of this month, seven billion vaccines will be available across the world, rising to 12 billion by December, but that a “staggering” 100 million doses will expire.

“Global political leaders must match the extraordinary commitment and co-operation of scientists and manufacturers who have created the opportunity to vaccinate the entire world,” Mr Brown said.

“We need a vaccine release plan to provide 'use now' vaccines to prevent a vaccine waste disaster because 'use by' dates are missed.

“It is unthinkable and unconscionable that 100 million vaccines will have to be thrown away from the stockpiles of the rich countries while the populations of the world's poorest countries will pay for our vaccine waste in lives lost.”

The summit must decide whether countries will swap delivery contracts, how regulatory barriers to vaccine exports can be overcome and who will underwrite the costs if stockpiled vaccines are to be used before they expire.

Airfinity's report is a guide for vaccinating 70 per cent of the global population by May next year.

“We must set a target of 40 per cent vaccination in the poorest countries by December and that will require 2.3 billion doses which depends on transferring unused doses month by month and swapping delivery contracts so that Covax, the agency for bulk purchasing of vaccines, and AVAT the African agency receives them much earlier,” Mr Brown said.

Dr Tedros, the WHO director general, said: “I am delighted and honoured that Gordon Brown has agreed to serve as WHO ambassador for global health financing.”

“In this role, he will elevate and support WHO’s work to raise awareness internationally on the great need for sustained global health financing, particularly from G20 and G7 countries.

“As a long-time friend of Gordon’s, I know that he will bring his sharp intellect, firm commitment and deep sense of justice to this ambassadorship.”

Updated: September 20th 2021, 8:29 AM