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Covid-19 Vaccines

Volume 690: debated on Tuesday 2 March 2021

What diplomatic steps the Government are taking to support the development of covid-19 vaccines (a) in the UK and (b) throughout the world. (912752)

Having visited the Kingston vaccination centre recently, I have seen first-hand the fantastic work that our healthcare workers are doing to vaccinate my Stafford constituents, but in order to fully defeat covid-19 we must vaccinate people around the world. During my virtual visit to Kenya last week, there was much excitement about the upcoming delivery of some covid-19 vaccines. Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is essential that we not only allow countries to access our surplus capacity via COVAX but donate vaccines to the poorest countries in the world?

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for the great work she is doing locally but also for raising the issue of international access to the vaccine. She will know that the UK has contributed £548 million to COVAX AMC, which is the international mechanism that will secure over 1 billion doses. In relation to her virtual Kenya visit, the roll-out of the first deliveries under COVAX has now begun in Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire, and by the end of June, in 92 of these poorer countries, we want to see all the vulnerable receiving their vaccines. That is global Britain as a force for good.

I welcome the news that the Foreign Secretary has just outlined about the COVAX deliveries in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire; that is excellent. Tragically, we have seen 50,000 deaths in South Africa alone from covid-19, but we have also seen 409,000 deaths from malaria and 700,000 deaths from AIDS-related causes. An estimated 1.8 million could die from tuberculosis in 2020, and there are Ebola outbreaks in Africa at the moment. Vaccines, whether for covid or other diseases, only work when there are the strong public health systems to deliver them, with the nurses, doctors and cold chain and diagnostic capacity. We have a moral duty to do our fair share, and it is in our global common interest. Will the Foreign Secretary be maintaining our overall bilateral and multilateral health spending, or will it be cut?

The hon. Gentleman is right to pay tribute to the work that the UK has done internationally not just on COVAX and the vaccine for this pandemic but on TB, malaria, polio and a whole range of other areas. We have had to make the difficult decision on the 0.7%, and the allocations will be published in due course, but we have been very clear that public health is the No.1 priority to be safeguarded across the piece.