LONDON: Britain announced Wednesday it will begin donating millions of coronavirus vaccine doses around the world, including to various Commonwealth countries, following its pledge to provide 100 million jabs globally by next June, reports AFP.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the ramped up rollout of an initial nine million inoculations, to get under way Friday, will go to Kenya, Jamaica and several Asian nations.
“This demonstrates we’re not just doing it because it’s in our own interest. It shows global Britain as a life-saving force for good in the world.”
Britain has committed to sharing 100 million Covid-19 vaccine shots by the middle of next year through the Covax programme—which aims to ensure fair distribution of jabs—and directly to individual countries.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson will formally agree an initial offer of 817,000 doses for Kenya when he meets President Uhuru Kenyatta later on Wednesday.
The pair are due to host a fundraising summit in London on Thursday—attended by other world leaders as well as business, charity, education and youth representatives—focused on global education efforts. Around half of the donated AstraZeneca vaccine doses will be dispatched to Nairobi this week, Downing Street said ahead of the meetings.
“As friends and allies, we are sharing UK vaccine doses to support Kenya’s fight against the pandemic,” Johnson added in a statement.
Richer countries, in particular Britain, have faced criticism for failing to start donating to poorer countries which are lagging far behind in their vaccination drives.
The UK has fully jabbed more than 70 percent of adults, and the government lifted all remaining pandemic curbs on day-to-day life in England last week. Daily infection rates in Britain appear to be in decline—boosting hopes of a strong economic recovery.
The International Monetary Fund on Tuesday forecast that Britain’s economy would grow by seven percent this year, the joint fastest of any G7 country alongside the United States. But the IMF also warned that the uneven distribution of vaccines is widening disparities as rich countries pick up speed and leave developing nations behind.
The 54-nation Commonwealth, of which Kenya, Jamaica and Malaysia are members, has called for vaccine rollouts to be speeded up in small states, and warned of the economic fallout of the virus in the Caribbean, Pacific and Indian Ocean regions.