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Covid-19 Vaccines: Global Distribution

Volume 699: debated on Tuesday 20 July 2021

What diplomatic steps the Government are taking to support the distribution of covid-19 vaccines throughout the world. (902998)

What diplomatic steps the Government are taking to support the distribution of covid-19 vaccines throughout the world. (903012)

What diplomatic steps the Government are taking to support the distribution of covid-19 vaccines throughout the world. (903019)

Through our investment in the development of the AstraZeneca vaccine, our finance for COVAX and our commitment of 100 million vaccine doses from surplus domestic supply, the UK is a global leader in our support for vaccinating the poorest around the world.

Lebanon has been hit by a succession of crises in recent months, not least the massive explosion in the port of Beirut last year, a deepening economic crisis, and rising political instability. Can the Foreign Secretary assure me that his Department is doing everything it can to support the people of Lebanon with their vaccine deployment so that Lebanese people do not have to endure shortages of covid-19 vaccines on top of the hardship that they are already enduring?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. He will recall that, last year, as that terrible disaster took place, we committed $2 million in extra support for medical equipment. In relation to vaccines, in March, Lebanon received its first doses from COVAX: 33,600 AZ vaccines. The UK, through our £90 million commitment, got the AstraZeneca vaccine at cost price to the world, and the vast majority of COVAX doses—some 98%—that will have reached Lebanon have been the AZ vaccine. That demonstrates the value that the UK is providing not just with the domestic roll-out but abroad as well.

The UK has amassed one of the largest vaccine portfolios in the world. This has been hugely successful and has allowed all of us to get a jab. In which parts of the world does the Foreign Secretary envisage using our surplus to best effect?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. At the G7, by making it clear that we would donate 100 million doses from surplus domestic supply by the end of June 2022, we also leveraged 1 billion doses from other countries. We are committing 80% to COVAX, which will be distributed according to its criteria, and a further 20% on a strategic basis. Allocations will be announced in due course.

Will my right hon. Friend join me in praising the employees of Wockhardt in my constituency of Clwyd South for the indispensable role they have played in our vaccine manufacturing process? It has allowed us not only to roll out doses swiftly and effectively in the UK, but to support countries across the rest of the world that have been badly hit by the covid pandemic.

My hon. Friend can be rightly very proud of the role his constituents have played. It is not only Wockhardt employees, but the wider AstraZeneca collaboration with Government and the £90 million of support that the Government put in for research and development and for getting capacity up that have meant that we not only have this world-beating domestic vaccine roll-out, but have supplied 98% of the vaccine to the poorest and most vulnerable countries around the world delivered by COVAX.

Less than 1% of sub-Saharan Africa has been fully vaccinated, leaving the Prime Minister’s claim that he would vaccinate the entire world hanging by a thread and his credibility in tatters. Having sneaked out cuts to the aid budget, which his Government have now made permanent, he has made the UK the third lowest donor in the G7, and in the middle of a pandemic, this Foreign Secretary has presided over the largest drop in humanitarian aid of any major donor country, apart from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. It is clear that the Foreign Secretary’s claim that the UK’s reputation has not been diminished under his watch is unfounded in reality. What does he say in response to the damning comments last week of the former President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf? He said that this Government’s cuts will have

“a negative impact on millions of people in less wealthy nations”.

If this Government have a conscience, they will want to know how many lives have and will be lost as a result of these cuts. I urge him to publish the impact assessments immediately so that more lives can be saved, but will he do it?

What I would say to the hon. Lady is that Labour promised it would hit 0.7% in 1974. That was the year in which I was born. Labour has never once hit 0.7%. It only twice hit 0.5%, so we will take no lectures from the Labour party when we are the third biggest G7 donor when it comes to aid.