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THE government’s decision to offer a third vaccine to Britain’s over-50s is a slap in the face to the global South struggling to access a first dose, campaigners charged today.
Booster vaccines will be offered to people aged 50 and over, those in care homes and front-line health and social care workers from next week.
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine will be used as the booster dose for around 30 million people, with experts saying it is safe to be given alongside the usual winter flu jab.
People will be able to get their Covid and flu vaccines on the same day, preferably with one shot in each arm.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid told the Commons that the NHS would contact all those who are eligible and was preparing to offer the jabs from next week.
Wales has also said it will begin a rollout of booster vaccines. Updates were expected from Scotland after the Star went to press.
But Global Justice Now slammed the decision, pointing out that people in low and middle-income countries struggle to access a first dose due to richer countries hoarding the world’s limited stocks.
It came as more than 140 former world leaders and Nobel laureates, including former British prime minister Gordon Brown, called on the next elected German chancellor to support an intellectual property waiver on Covid-19 vaccines.
They signed a letter, co-ordinated by the People’s Vaccine Alliance which includes Global Justice Now, to coincide with the Word Trade Organisation meeting to discuss the waiver rules.
The British and German governments have so far blocked the waiver, first proposed by South Africa and India last year, despite pleas from low and middle-income countries and support from the United States, Russia, China and France.
Signatories said they were deeply concerned with Germany’s continued opposition to a temporary waiver at a time in which “the artificial restriction on manufacturing and supply is leading to thousands of unnecessary deaths from Covid-19 each day.”
Experts have warned that the global vaccine inequality threatens to undermine efforts to end the pandemic, while a report from the Wellcome Trust and Institute for Government warned that virus mutations will “chip away” at the protection offered by vaccines.
Global Justice Now director Nick Dearden said: “This announcement is a slap in the face to the billions of people living in countries that cannot access first shots, let alone a third.
“The UK has persistently pushed low and middle-income countries to the back of the queue, hoarding the world’s limited stocks of vaccines for ourselves.
“Taking even more of them, while unvaccinated people in the global South die by the thousand, is a disgrace.
“The real scandal is that this doesn’t need to be a choice — we could be producing far more vaccines if only the British government would stop putting Big Pharma profit ahead of lives around the world.”
Mr Dearden said ministers have an opportunity to heal the great vaccine divide at the World Trade Organisation by supporting the waiver which will “radically upscale” global production.
“If the UK continues to block the waiver, it will be yet another blow to international vaccination efforts,” he said.
Islington North MP and Peace and Justice Project co-founder Jeremy Corbyn told the Star: “The longer this situation continues, the more the likelihood increases of more vaccine-resistant variants emerging and dragging the entire world frighteningly backwards.
“Not only are richer countries hoarding vaccines; they are preventing poorer countries from producing their own.
“The US now supports a waiver — albeit limited — of intellectual property law to allow all countries to produce vaccines and so must all other countries.
“And we must come together as a movement to challenge the rigged trade system that routinely prevents vital products like vaccines getting to those who most need them.”
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