Nicola Sturgeon has a “duty” to challenge the UK Government over its “staggeringly selfish” stance on providing coronavirus vaccines to poorer nations, campaigners have said.
Scottish members of the People’s Vaccine Alliance made the plea to the First Minister as global leaders, including UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, prepare to take part in the G20 summit in Rome.
A new report for the organisation claims that of 1.8 billion Covid vaccine doses that have been promised by richer nations, only 261 million jabs – 14% – have actually been delivered.
The Dose of Reality report also said the UK Government had taken 500,000 doses from the Covax programme, a worldwide initiative aimed at ensuring fair access to vaccination.
Jamie Livingstone, the head of Oxfam Scotland which is one of organisations in the alliance, accused the UK of “pilfering” jabs meant for poorer nations.
He said Sturgeon should raise the issue with her Westminster counterparts.
“Not only has the UK Government utterly failed to deliver on its vaccine promises to poor countries, it’s been pilfering one of the only supplies they have access to whilst also blocking efforts to scale up production,” Livingstone said.
“This isn’t just staggeringly selfish but it’s also spectacularly short-sighted and will cost lives around the world and potentially here in Scotland too.
“The First Minister has a duty to speak out and call for the UK Government to compel pharmaceutical companies to share their lifesaving vaccines and technology with the rest of the world.”
Sturgeon is also being urged to back a Holyrood motion from Labour’s Sarah Boyack which demands that the Prime Minister supports plans to waive intellectual property rules and insist the vaccine know-how and technology is shared through the World Health Organisation’s Covid Technology Access Pool – a move which could lead to a major increase in global vaccine production.
Liz Murray, head of campaigns at Global Justice Now Scotland, said: “With thousands of people dying around the world from Covid every day, it’s utterly shameful that even the pathetically small number of vaccines offered by rich countries haven’t been delivered.
“The First Minister must urge the UK Government to end its indefensible protection of the monopolies of pharmaceutical corporations which is artificially restricting the supply of vaccines – particularly to low-income countries.
“Grand plans to vaccinate the world will not be delivered by empty promises, but with the suspending of those monopolies.”
Sally Foster-Fulton, head of Christian Aid Scotland, said: “Developing countries have been hit with an endless tide of inadequate gestures and broken promises from rich countries like the UK, which are simultaneously blocking the real solutions to vaccine inequality.
“Protecting lives – both here in Scotland and around the world – should be more important than protecting the outsized profits of pharmaceutical corporations who have already made billions from this crisis.”
Responding to the report, health secretary Humza Yousaf said: “While Scotland has an impressive uptake of vaccination, we continue to engage with the UK Government and the Covid-19 Vaccine Taskforce to consider how we can help accelerate global vaccines.
“Our £10m international development fund has supported Covid-specific initiatives in Malawi, Rwanda, Zambia and Pakistan and it will increase to £15m in April.
“Last year we gave £2.5m to Unicef to help vaccine distribution, rollout and online healthcare education; have helped send vital medical equipment and humanitarian support to other countries we are looking at how we might offer further support for vaccinations in Malawi, Zambia and Rwanda as part of our wider international development programme.
“This is while the UK Government cuts aid – going back on a commitment to meet the UN target of 0.7% of the Gross National Income – a deplorable decision that is hitting the world’s poorest and most marginal communities at a time of great need.”