Gordon Brown has accused the EU of adopting a “neocolonial approach” to the supply of Covid-19 vaccines and demanded rich western nations relinquish their stranglehold on pandemic treatments.
The former prime minister has called on Joe Biden, Boris Johnson and Mario Draghi to convene a special summit to coincide with next month’s UN general assembly in New York to address Africa’s vaccine deficit.
Writing for the Guardian, Brown said it was shocking that that about 10m single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccines produced at a factory in South Africa were being exported to the EU instead of helping African countries meet their modest targets for pandemic jabs.
Brown wrote: “Compared to the swift development of the pathbreaking Covid vaccines, getting shots into all the world’s arms should be straightforward. But vaccine nationalism – and Europe’s neocolonial approach to global health – is dividing the world into rich and protected people, who live, and those who are poor, unprotected and at risk of dying.”
Despite warnings from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank of the need for more urgent action, Brown said 45 out of 54 African countries would miss their September target of vaccinating 10% of their citizens.
Rich countries should provide £50bn in financial support, waive patents to allow African countries to manufacture their own drugs and run down stockpiles of vaccines that were not needed. African nations require vaccines immediately, and rich countries would not be safe until there was mass vaccination for every country, he said.
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Brown said the US had the option to buy almost 2bn additional doses, the EU had access to 1bn extra shots and Canada had secured 191m.
“Due to overordering, their populations will likely not use all these vaccines but in the process of securing preferential agreements rich countries have effectively locked out African countries from accessing the doses they urgently require,” he said.
Brown said the gap between rich and poor countries was so wide that 88% of vaccines distributed globally had gone to the G20 group of the world’s wealthiest nations.
He noted that 50% of the adult population in European, the UK and the US had been fully vaccinated, while the figure for Africa was only 1.8%.
“We must keep reminding ourselves of the reason for ensuring the mass vaccination of the entire world,” he said. “No one is safe anywhere until everyone is safe everywhere, and everyone will live in fear until nobody does.”