UK to protect population before donating vaccines abroad

Photo: AP Matt Hancock

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced that vaccinating children in the country will be prioritized prior to donating Cobid-19 jabs to other countries worldwide, Reuters reported. Britain's medicine regulator approved Pfizer/BioNTech's, vaccine for use in 12-15 year olds, but global health bodies warn that if rich countries prioritise low-risk members of their own populations over broadening access globally, they risk disaster.

Asked he would prioritise vaccinating teenagers over more vulnerable people globally, Hancock said: "My first duty as health secretary for the UK is to make sure that the UK is protected and safe. Whilst thankfully children are very rarely badly affected by Covid-19 themselves, they can still pass on the disease, and so that is my first duty," Hancock said after a meeting of G7 healthcare ministers in Oxford, central England.

"Alongside that I'm working with my international colleagues to make sure that people can get access to the vaccine around the world." Hancock had hosted health ministers from the G7 rich countries met at the University of Oxford, where AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine was invented, ahead of a G7 leaders' meeting. The ministers agreed a new set of standards to improve clinical trials, as well as support for vaccine donations when domestic circumstances allowed.  US President Joe Biden has earmarked plans to share 25 million surplus vaccines globally, while France also said it would donate doses to Senegal.

But although Britain has given a first Covid-19 vaccine to three-quarters of adults, and fully vaccinated half the adult population, Hancock said the country was not yet in a position to donate doses. Britain has ordered over 500 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine for its population of 67 million, most of which are two-shot vaccines.

"As and when the UK has excess doses of vaccine, then, if we don't need them, we'll make sure they're available to others," Hancock said.

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