Boris Johnson has a "moral duty" to show "global leadership" in the run up to the G7 summit by pledging to do more to vaccinate developing nations, according to more than 100 cross-party MPs and peers.
With the prime minister chairing a gathering of the most economically powerful countries in the world in Cornwall from June 11, politicians are calling on him to commit to a one in, one out policy when it comes to vaccines.
For every dose bought for use in Britain, the signatories want the UK government to donate a dose to the United Nations-backed Covax scheme, which is providing vaccines to low and middle-income countries.
It comes as the World Health Organization, the International Monetary Fund, World Bank Group and the World Trade Organization used a joint plea across a range of international newspapers to call for richer countries to give more Covid vaccines to poor nations or risk new variants bringing fresh lockdowns.
In a letter backed by senior Tory MPs Peter Bottomley and Dr Dan Poulter, a former health minister who has worked on the frontline during the pandemic, the signatories said there is “clear moral imperative to act to close the global vaccine divide”, as well as a “rational case…to stop the threat of variants emerging abroad and taking root in the UK”.
Others putting their name to the letter include former shadow chancellor John McDonnell, former archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey, former Green Party leader Caroline Lucas, Margaret Thatcher’s former health minister Baroness Hooper and ex-leader of the Liberal Democrats Lord Campbell.
Co-ordinated by the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on coronavirus, the letter said: “The longer we wait to act, the more likely it is that dangerous variants could emerge that can evade the protections offered by current vaccines.
“The UK has an opportunity to use the G7 summit to show leadership on this critical issue and demonstrate that ‘global Britain’ is more than just a slogan.
“While the UK has rightly committed funding to Covax, we remain a net importer of Covid-19 vaccines.
“The APPG on coronavirus therefore recommends that the UK must immediately adopt a policy of vaccine matching, in which for each dose of the vaccine imported, one dose is donated to Covax.
“This will help meet the urgent demand for vaccines in low and middle-income countries around the world.
“The UK mustn’t miss the opportunity provided by the G7 summit to lead the way in promoting more equitable global access to Covid-19 vaccines.”
The 116 peers and MPs said the UK, once it has boosted its manufacturing capacity, should aim to “become a net vaccine exporter”.
The decision to write to the prime minister comes after Professor Andrew Pollard, who helped develop the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, warned the group that “many millions could die between now and September” if vaccines are not more widely distributed across the globe.
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The group said European countries, including Germany, France and Italy, had committed to donate at least 100 million doses of coronavirus vaccines to middle and low-income countries before the end of the year.
The UK government has so far only committed to donating surplus shots in future to Covax, they said.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has previously said that the UK “has probably done more than any other nation to help vaccinate the world’s poorest” through its support for the Oxford vaccine, which accounted for almost a third of the global tally of Covid jabs administered as of May 19.
He said the government had also donated more than £500 million to Covax, which has delivered vaccines to 120 countries and territories.