LONDON: The UK should pause its vaccination campaign after vulnerable groups have received jabs to promote a fair global rollout, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said all adults in the UK should be offered a first vaccine dose by autumn.
But the WHO said countries should look for 2 billion doses to be “fairly distributed” worldwide by the end of the year.
WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris appealed to the UK, saying “you can wait” because ensuring fair global distribution is “clearly morally the right thing to do.” Many poorer countries have yet to begin their vaccination drives.
This week, Johnson said the UK was on track to reach its goal of vaccinating the most vulnerable parts of the population by Feb. 15.
In her appeal, Harris told the BBC: “We’re asking countries, once you’ve got those high-risk and healthcare worker groups, please ensure that the supply you’ve got access to is provided for others. While that’s morally the right thing to do, it’s also economically the right thing to do.”
She added: “There’ve been a number of very interesting analyses showing that just vaccinating your own country and then sitting there and saying ‘we’re fine’ won’t work economically. That phrase ‘no man is an island’ applies economically as well … Unless we get all societies working effectively once again, every society will be financially affected.”
Directors of the WHO previously warned that “vaccine nationalism” could cost high-income countries $4.5 trillion, while a report by the International Chamber of Commerce Research Foundation found that the world economy could lose up to $9.2 trillion if poorer countries do not receive access to jabs.
One member of the UK government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, Jeremy Farrar, warned that vaccinating “a lot of people in a few countries, leaving the virus unchecked in large parts of the world, will lead to more variants emerging.”
He said countries with vaccine supply deals should donate some doses to the WHO Covax vaccine fund, which he claimed “would not take away from the national effort to protect the most vulnerable in society and healthcare workers.”
The UK has so far helped to raise more than £730 million ($1 billion) for the Covax advance market commitment, to help deploy more than 1.3 billion vaccine doses to 92 developing countries this year.
In January, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said governments had a responsibility to protect their people, but “vaccinationalism” is self-defeating and will delay a global recovery.
“Science is succeeding, but solidarity is failing,” he warned. “Vaccines are reaching high-income countries quickly, while the world’s poorest have none at all.”