Gordon Brown has urged Boris Johnson to take the lead in getting the world’s wealthiest countries to pay to ensure the poorest nations have access to the coronavirus vaccine.
The former prime minister said that unless protection against the disease was extended to developing nations the death toll would continue to rise while the cost to the global economy would increase.
He said it would be “statesmanship of the highest order” if Johnson were to use the UK’s presidency of next month’s G7 summit to call for a burden-sharing plan to ensure vaccines were distributed fairly around the world.
“If the G7 countries and their attendees at their meeting on June 11 were paying on the basis of capacity and ability to pay, then they would pay two-thirds of the cost,” he told BBC Radio 4’s The World This Weekend.
“Then we would have a means by which we could guarantee to the rest of the world that they would be vaccinated very quickly.”
Brown said that while the majority of adults in the UK had received at least their first jab, just 2% of those in Africa and 11% in India had done so.
Only 0.2% of the African population and 3% of the Indian population were fully vaccinated.
“If we allow this vaccine inequality to continue then we will have half the world vaccinated and protected and the other half unvaccinated and liable to be at the greatest risk of dying,” he said.
“The disease will continue to spread and it will mutate and it will come back to haunt even the vaccinated in our own country,” he said.
He said it was in the self-interest of wealthier nations to act as vaccination was the key to restarting the global economy which, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimated, stood to lose 9 trillion dollars (£6.3tril) if world trade did not resume.
“What I am talking about is something a bit more systematic than a bit of charity here and a bit of charity there and going round the table and saying ‘What will you do?’” he said.
“You need a burden-sharing formula that means that, whether it is done in kind or in cash, money is available for vaccines to be provided to the poorest countries in the world.
“What I think Boris Johnson should do – and this would be statesmanship of the highest order – is to say ‘Look, we have a formula, we have got a global plan, we now need you to pay to make sure that everybody is vaccinated so that indeed everybody is safe.’”