UK must use G7 presidency to ensure equal access to Covid jabs – unions

Virus outbreak India Credit: AP/Press Association Images

The UK should use its presidency of the G7 to help ensure a faster supply of vaccines to places in most need, unions have said.

Urgent action is needed to help India and other countries in the global south get jabs to their populations, they said in a joint letter to International Trade Secretary Liz Truss.

The letter is signed by the heads of union bodies including the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and Trades Union Congress (TUC).

The letter states that the British Government must “use its presidency role at the G7 to ensure equitable and free access of Global South countries to Covid-19 vaccines”.

It adds: “We call on the UK Government to support the waiver of World Trade Organisation (WTO) TRIPs rules being proposed by South Africa and India to allow global south countries to produce affordable versions of patented Covid vaccines.”

The TUC said it defines the global south as poorer and lower-income countries in South Asia, Africa and Latin America, and the letter argues that many of these “have only been able to access a fraction of the number of vaccines that global north countries have been able to”.

It adds: “This is due to lack of supply and the high cost of purchasing patented vaccines.

“As a consequence the pandemic is having a catastrophic effect on the health and livelihoods of global south societies, deepening global inequalities.”

The letter states that the unions are “also concerned that while the UK Government pledged at a G7 meeting in February to donate its surplus vaccines to global south countries, it has not yet done so”.

(PA Graphics) Credit: PA Graphics

It adds: “We call on the UK Government to work with other G7 countries to ensure they donate surplus vaccines as soon as possible to global south countries to meet demand.”

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The UK Government must use its presidency of the G7 to help end the humanitarian crisis in the global south.

“That means working with other G7 nations to waive intellectual property rights so all nations can easily access and manufacture low-cost supplies of the vaccine.”

She said there is a “huge danger of new strains of Covid developing if our leaders do not act quickly and decisively”.