Good morning. The G7 summit in Cornwall formally opens this afternoon, and as it gets under way Boris Johnson has announced that the UK is going to donate at least 100m surplus doses of vaccine to poorer countries within the next 12 months. The news follows President Biden’s announcement yesterday that the US is buying 500m doses of the Pfizer vaccine to distribute to nearly 100 countries around the world. Here are details of the UK offer from the government news release.
The UK will donate 5m doses by the end of September, beginning in the coming weeks, primarily for use in the world’s poorest countries. The prime minister has also committed to donating a further 95m doses within the next year, including 25m more by the end of 2021. 80% of the 100m doses will go to Covax and the remainder will be shared bilaterally with countries in need.
By sharing 5m doses in the coming weeks the UK will meet an immediate demand for vaccines for the countries worst affected by coronavirus without delaying completion of our initial domestic vaccination programme
The all-party parliamentary group on coronavirus has said that this does not go far enough. Its chair, the Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran, said:
This is an important step forward, but it does not reflect the moral urgency of the situation we face.
There is an urgent need to get jabs in arms now, to save millions of lives around the world and prevent the emergence of even deadlier and more transmissible variants.
The UK government must immediately commit to donating one vaccine dose to Covax for each one imported into the UK. Unless a continued and steady supply of vaccines is provided to those countries who desperately need them, a vital opportunity to keep this global pandemic under control will be missed.
But Johnson has dismissed this criticism. In an interview with the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg, when it was put to him that over the next three months the UK will only be donating 5m doses and that he was “talking big” but not delivering on this, he did not accept this. Johnson argued that the government’s backing for the development of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine was by itself a massive contribution to the global vaccination effort, because this vaccine is being so widely used. He said:
I think that the people of this country should be very proud that of the 1.5bn doses that are being distributed around the world to the poorest and neediest in the world under the Covax programme, one in three come from the Oxford/AstraZeneca deal that the UK did, allowing those vaccines to be distributed at cost.
And that’s before we’ve talked about the £548 million that we’ve contributed to Covax, £1.6 billion to Gavi. And, yes, we’re putting in 5m doses by September, but we’ll do another, we’ll do 100m before 12 months is out. That’s a huge number of extra doses.
Here is the agenda for the day.
Morning: G7 leaders and other invitees arrive by air at Newquay.
2pm: Boris Johnson welcomes the leaders at the official opening of the summit at Carbis Bay. At 2.30pm there will be a family photograph on the beach.
Afternoon: The first session of the summit is devoted to building back after Covid.
Evening: The leaders are having dinner at the Eden Project, where they will be joined by the Queen.
During the day Johnson also has a series of bilateral meetings, including with the Japanese PM, Yoshihide Suga, the Canadian PM, Justin Trudeau, and the Italian PM, Mario Draghi.
Today I will just be focusing on the G7. For other Covid developments, do follow our global live blog.
I try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions, and if they are of general interest, I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.
If you want to attract my attention quickly, it is probably better to use Twitter. I’m on @AndrewSparrow.
Alternatively, you can email me at [email protected]