Former prime minister Gordon Brown has urged wealthier nations to do more to help vaccinate the entire world, saying it is a decision of “who lives and who dies”.
Speaking to Sky News, the former Labour leader called on the leaders of the G7 nations, who are due to meet in Cornwall this weekend, to put up the money needed to pay for vaccinations globally.
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Mr Brown, a prominent anti-poverty campaigner, added that it is clear “we are not safe until everybody is safe” and also pressed Prime Minister Boris Johnson to reverse the government’s proposed cut to foreign aid.
It comes as Conservative Party MPs hope to force Mr Johnson to reverse cuts to the foreign aid budget in a vote this afternoon.
Thirty Tories, including former prime minister Theresa May and four former cabinet ministers, are backing a rebellion against the £4bn reduction.
Mr Brown said: “It is pretty clear that we need to vaccinate the world. We are not safe until everybody is safe, as I have said.
“And it is an act of self-interest, it is not just an act of charity, because if the disease spreads and mutates and comes back into our country through India, Nepal or Africa then we all suffer.
“So this is something that the world has got to do together and that is why on Friday when Boris Johnson meets the G7 in Cornwall they’ve got the chance – the richest countries sitting around the table – they have got the chance to make a decision that will vaccinate the whole world by putting up the money that is necessary to pay for it, and sharing the doses that are excess in the United Kingdom.”
Mr Brown said the situation “needs a plan, not just a wing and a prayer” and said leftover vaccine doses being handed over was “a good thing, but it is not enough”.
The former prime minister continued: “I think you’ve got to look at these overseas aid cuts and think if you are pulling away the vaccine or the injection needle from children and adults who need vaccinating and putting their lives at risk then that is not a good thing and there is not public support for that.
“And on Friday at the G7, we will decide, effectively, who lives and who dies – who is to be vaccinated and is therefore safe and who is not to be vaccinated and is therefore at risk.”
The director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has previously said there is a “shocking imbalance” in the global distribution of vaccines.
Mr Johnson will be hosting world leaders at the G7 summit in Carbis Bay, Cornwall, later this week – and supporting the global recovery from the pandemic is likely to be a key topic on the agenda.
But pushed on the proposed foreign aid cut on Monday morning, solicitor general Lucy Frazer said it was “important we support the effort” in the UK at this time in the pandemic.
Ms Frazer told Sky News that Chancellor Rishi Sunak could count on her vote on the matter as “it is really important that we spend money at home at this time of the pandemic”.