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UK starts to export vaccines that it is gifting to several countries

Jamaica, Indonesia and Kenya among several countries to benefit

By Ricky Browne

The UK is sending out its first batch of vaccines overseas this week – with Jamaica one of several countries in line to benefit.

In a tweet earlier today, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab announced:

“Pleased to announce the UK is sending the first batch of 9 million #Covid19 vaccines overseas to Covax & key partners this week. These vaccines will save lives and show Global Britain as a lifesaving force for good in the world.”

Other than Jamaica,, Indonesia and Kenya are among the countries also set to be gifted the UK-manufactured Oxford AstraZeneca vaccines this week. Several other Caricom countries will also receive vaccines — Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Guyana , St Vincent and the Grenadines. Barbados, which is set to become a republic in November, is not on the list of countries to receive the UK vaccines.

Jamaica is to receive 300,000 vaccines this week, with the doses arriving on a British Airways flight expected on Friday – escorted by crown agents. Indonesia will receive 600,000 doses and Kenya will get 817,000 doses.

The doses will allow Jamaica to greatly increase its currently low level of vaccination – where so far about 180,000 people have received vaccines. The country of 2.8 million people has so far fully vaccinated only four percent of the total population, with an additional two percent having received one vaccination.

In total, the UK will be gifting 100 million vaccines over the next year, with some 30 million to be sent out this year, to both the COVAX facility, and directly to some other countries. In this first tranche, some 9 million vaccines will be sent out – with five million going to COVAX.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab Photo: James Veysey/REX/Shutterstock

“We’re doing this to help the most vulnerable, but also because we know we won’t be safe until everyone is safe,” Raab said.

Other countries that are set to receive the UK vaccines include: Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Cambodia, Guyana, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Thailand and Vietnam – for a total of four million doses.

“The UK has been at the forefront of the global response to COVID-19, including through investing £90 million to support the development of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. Over half a billion doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine have been delivered at a non-profit price globally, with two-thirds going to lower- and middle-income countries,” according to a story from Gov.UK.

The first Covax-distributed vaccines were administered in Abidjan, Ivory Coast earlier this year Photo: Diomande Ble Blonde / AP

“The UK also kick-started efforts to establish COVAX in 2020, providing a total of £548 million to fund vaccines for lower income countries. The scheme has delivered more than 152 million vaccine doses to over 137 countries and territories, including in 83 lower-middle income countries. 65% of the initial vaccine doses have been Oxford-AstraZeneca. COVAX aims to deliver 1.8 billion vaccines to lower-income countries around the world by early 2022,” Gov.UK noted.

Of the total 100 million doses that the UK is gifting – COVAX will receive 80 percent, with the remaining 20 percent being sent directly to countries in need.

With these vaccines, and with the UK funding the development of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine with £90 million from the taxpayer, and with it ensuring that the vaccine would be distributed at a non-profit price, the UK has arguably done more than any other country to help defeat Covid-19 on a global basis.

The UK also helped to start the COVAX facility in 202 and provided a total of some £548 million to fund the vaccines for developing countries. So far, COVAX has delivered more than 152 million vaccine does to more than 137 countries – the majority of them (65 percent) being Oxford AstraZeneca.

UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid Photo: Sky News

 “This is a global pandemic and COVID-19 vaccines are the best way to protect people and prevent the emergence of new variants. We want to make sure developing countries can build a wall of defence against the virus as we have in the UK through our vaccine rollout,” said Health Secretary Sajid Javid.

“The UK is one of the largest donors to COVAX and this donation is part of our pledge to send 100 million vaccines to some of the world’s poorest countries,” he noted.

The vaccines come at a time when there has been much controversy over the UK decreasing its Overseas Development Assistance from the established level of 0.7 percent of Gross National Income to 0.5 percent. However, the cost of the vaccine donations may push the ODA to over that level.

“The cost of this donation has been funded through UK Official Development Assistance, and will come over and above the ODA spending target of 0.5% of GNI if needed” Gov.UK noted.

Meanwhile, the donations also come at a time when the UK still has a high rate of infection – one of the highest in the world – but also at a time when the infection rates have started to decline, suggesting that the country Is coming out of its third wave.

The UK has also come out of its lockdown restrictions, one of the first countries to do so globally.

There may be some concern that the UK should continue to vaccinate its population before making gifting these vaccines. But the UK has now double-vaccinated 70 percent of its adult population, and with the high rate of infection (which was at 55,000 people per day at its peak in the third wave) immunity levels may be higher than that. It is possible that the country is now approaching ‘herd immunity’ wherever that level lies.

Despite the fact that millions of British people are not currently vaccinated, it is believed that the 9 million Oxford-AstraZeneca doses that are being gifted are not needed for the domestic rollout.

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