Northern Ireland news

Nationalist and unionist MPs unite to condemn UK and other rich countries for hoarding Covid-19 vaccines, driving shortages in poorer nations

Hoarding of vaccines means `poorer countries are hindered by industry monopolies which are blocking vaccine access'

NORTHERN Ireland's nationalist and unionist MPs have united to condemn the UK and other affluent countries for buying "enough Covid-19 vaccines to immunise the population many times over...driving supply shortages" in poorer nations.

SDLP MPs Claire Hanna and Colum Eastwood joined with the DUP's Jim Shannon and 15 other Westminster politicians to table an early day motion warning the hoarding of vaccines means "poorer countries are hindered by industry monopolies" which are "blocking vaccine access".

On Tuesday, Downing Street said the UK does not have "surplus doses" of vaccines to send to India as the nation struggles to cope with a deadly surge of coronavirus infections.

The group said there is a "moral and practical necessity to challenge that situation", with "limitations" to the Covax programme - designed to ensure vaccines are shared fairly among all nations, rich and poor.

The MPs point out it aims "only to vaccinate 20 per cent of the populations of recipient countries in 2021, meaning that many nations will be waiting until at least 2024 to achieve mass Covid-19 immunisation".

They call for "increased efforts and action are needed urgently to address that situation", joining more than 150 former heads of state and Nobel laureates calling for a `people's vaccine' to end the global pandemic.

They are pressing the British government to "prevent corporate profit from being prioritised in Covid-19 vaccine programmes".

Ms Hanna is among 23 parliamentarians who have written to the chiefs of the six big vaccine firms AstraZeneca, BioNTech, Johnson and Johnson, Moderna, Novavax and Pfizer, calling on them to meet the People's Vaccine alliance "who are trying to secure equitable access".

They told them of fears "vaccine inequality will not only lead to more loss of lives globally but will also delay the end of the pandemic".

"With the onset of Covid variants that are potentially more resistant to current vaccines, achieving global herd immunity must be the priority - not just only from a moral imperative, but also an economic and public health one too."

The politicians are also calling for an acceleration in vaccine production "on a massive scale needed to meet global demand" and "sharing of vaccine blueprints and know-how", with technology transfer licensing production to other companies.

The south Belfast MP said "in the fight against this global pandemic no-one is truly safe until we are all safe".

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

Northern Ireland news