Boris Johnson breaks promise to deliver 100 million Covid vaccines to poor

The government has broken its promise to deliver 100 million surplus Covid vaccines to poor countries, after sharply cutting international aid spending.

At a G7 meeting in June last year, Boris Johnson pledged to send the vaccines to developing countries within a year to help close the global vaccine gap and “vaccinate the world”.

But a year later the government has delivered barely a third of the number of promised jabs, with just 36.5 million deployed as of the end of May – a deficit of 63.5 million doses.

Figures published by the government also show that ministers have effectively charged developing countries for the leftover jabs by deducting them from existing aid, and even added a mark-up on the UK’s original purchase price.

The backdrop to the news is a stark vaccine divide across the world, with just one in five Africans having received a single dose compared to 65 per cent of all people worldwide. The World Bank expects 198 million people to be pushed into poverty across the globe this year as a result of the pandemic.

The prime minister pledged to parliament last year that the vaccines would not be funded by taking money from the existing aid budget – a vow which he appears to have straightforwardly broken.

Statistics for aid spending in 2021 show that £100.4m was taken out of the UK aid budget to cover the cost of the surplus coronavirus vaccines sent abroad.

Labour accused the government of “profiteering” from the pandemic because ministers have counted each vaccine as £4.50 of aid spending, despite paying just £2.30 for doses in the first place, according to the British Medical Journal – a mark-up of 95 per cent.

As a result of this accounting the government has been able to mark down over £100 million from the aid budget by donating the vaccines the UK had no use for.

Preet Kaur Gill, Labour’s shadow international development secretary, said it was “indefensible” for the governemnt’s cuts to be landing on the world’s poorest.

“Once again, this prime minister chases headlines then drastically under-delivers,” she told The Independent.

“Last year Boris Johnson stood up in parliament and promised his government would share vaccines with poorer countries to help us beat the pandemic as quickly as possible, and that he wouldn’t raid the aid budget to pay for vaccines we had going spare.

“Now we learn that not only has he broken his promise, but his government has also profiteered off the pandemic by doubling the price of vaccines for the poorest countries in the world.

“In the middle of a global crisis, with food prices skyrocketing, it is indefensible for the government to balance the books on the backs of the world’s poorest people.”

The government claims that vaccine supply is outstripping demand and says the pledge is no longer important.

But aid charity Oxfam said the government was effectively charging poor countries for its “leftovers”.

“The UK Government has repeatedly broken its promises to deliver vaccine donations to poorer countries and it’s an outrage that they are recharging the leftover doses they have given to an already depleted aid budget, depriving poor countries of other life-saving aid,” Anna…

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