UK backs sharing COVID-19 vaccines now to prevent new strains from emerging

Three quarters agree pandemic will not be over until it has ended everywhere, and that people in the UK are still at risk if virus thriving elsewhere in the world

Two thirds say it is important for the UK to start sharing doses internationally now, amid concern new vaccine resistant strains could potentially threaten domestic rollout

New polling (1) shows public support for sharing doses of COVID-19 vaccines with poorer countries now to help prevent new strains emerging in places that are unable to access the vaccine.

There is even concern that if a new vaccine-resistant strain were to emerge overseas, it could jeopardise the so-far successful roll-out programme in the UK.

Jointly commissioned by the ONE Campaign, Save the Children, Wellcome Trust, and Global Citizen, the polling shows the British public understand the pandemic does not respect borders and requires a global solution.

This awareness reflects the reality that whilst in some countries, including the UK, are making progress against the pandemic, the rest of the world has some way to go. In fact, more COVID-19 cases have been reported in the past two weeks than in the first 6 months of the pandemic. (2)

The polling shows that, of the British public:

  • 76% agree that “People in the UK are still at risk of COVID-19 if the virus is thriving elsewhere in the world”,  and 75% agree that “The COVID-19 pandemic will not be over until it has ended everywhere”
  • 67% agree that “It is important for the UK to share COVID-19 vaccines with other countries now, to prevent new strains emerging”, and 64% agree “The UK vaccination rollout could be jeopardised if a new, vaccine resistant variant develops elsewhere in the world”

Romilly Greenhill, UK Director of ONE, said: “The public get that sharing doses now isn’t just generous, it’s in our own interests. The pandemic doesn’t end with a vaccine, it ends when everyone, in every country, gets the vaccine.

“The British public clearly support the Government going much further and faster in sharing doses with other countries. As host to G7 leaders in five weeks’ time, the UK has a major opportunity to galvanise a collective commitment to start sharing vaccines with COVAX immediately.”

The polling also showed broad support for international cooperation by leaders, and that rich countries should not ‘hoard’ doses at the expense of other countries.

There is broad awareness of the need in other parts of the world, with public support for front line health workers and vulnerable people in other countries receiving the vaccine ahead of healthy people in the UK.

The public also backed the UK supporting global solutions and providing support for other countries less able to deal with the pandemic on their own:

  • 62% agree that “The COVID-19 vaccine should be made available to doctors, nurses, and health care workers all around the world, even if it means fit and healthy people in the UK have to wait a bit longer”, and 58% agree “It is not fair that rich countries have reserved more COVID-19 vaccines than they need at the expense of poorer countries being able to access the vaccine”
  • 70% agree that “It is in the UK’s national interest to end the COVID-19 pandemic everywhere”, and 70% think “It is important to support other countries that might be struggling to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak”
  • 70 % agree “Leaders and politicians should work together to enable an equitable distribution of vaccine supply across the world”

Kevin Watkins, CEO of Save the Children said: “The UK public see that solidarity and self-interest are one and the same. They know the pandemic has caused death and suffering across the world, and that we are all part of a global fight to end it. We saw the NHS come close to being overwhelmed and the shocking scenes in India show what can happen when a country isn’t able to pull back from the brink. This must not happen again, here or anywhere. The only way to guarantee that is for Government to apply the same focus and drive to the international battle against the disease as they have to the domestic vaccine roll-out.

“We and the ‘Crack the Crises’ coalition representing 10 million people in the UK call on the government to work with others to ensure everyone who needs the vaccine can get it without a global ‘jabs race’ that leaves people in poorer countries behind.”

Marie Rumsby, UK Director of Global Citizen, said: “It is fantastic to see that the majority of British people want the UK government to start sharing covid 19 vaccines now, so that everyone around the world can be safe from the pandemic. As hosts of this year’s G7, the UK government must lead by example and start donating these doses now, so the most vulnerable in the world can have the protection they deserve.”

Will Hall, Global Policy and Advocacy Manager, Wellcome, said: “It is fantastic to see such strong public support for a step-up in the UK’s role in international pandemic response and sharing national vaccine supply. France, Spain, New Zealand, Norway and now the United States have all pledged to begin sharing vaccine doses, but more ambition and clarity is urgently needed from the world’s wealthiest nations. The UK needs to be a leader by making a significant commitment to share doses immediately and by using its G7 presidency to set out a plan for collective action. Now is the time for strong and compassionate leadership to work to end the pandemic globally. With deals agreed for far more vaccines than it will ever need – over 175m after vaccinating the entire UK population – the UK Government is in one of the strongest positions globally to do this, through COVAX, without hindering national rollout. This survey should be a clear sign that the public strongly supports fairer global distribution and that sharing vaccine doses is in the national and international interest.”

The health campaigners say that the UK Government should take the public’s views to heart and back the international fight against COVID-19 by:

  • Starting to share some COVID-19 vaccines with Covax, the global initiative designed to ensure doses reach those who need them most, including health workers.
  • Ensuring a bold and ambitious financing plan to vaccinate the world is at the top of the G7’s agenda when they meet in London next month
  • Using all available tools to help the world ramp up manufacture and supply of COVID-19 vaccines

ENDS

(1)   The polling was conducted on behalf of The ONE Campaign by Savanta: ComRes. The polling asked 2273 people their opinions around vaccine nationalism between April 30th and May 3rd, 2021.

(2) This is according to WHO data that more COVID-19 cases reported in the last 2 weeks than in the first 6 months of the pandemic. More information available here.

One, Save the Children and Global Citizen are part of the ‘Crack the Crises’ coalition which represents 10 million people in the UK and is calling on the Prime Minister and other world leaders to take action for a healthier, fairer and greener future – one that provides vaccines and healthcare for all, fights poverty and injustice, and helps end the climate and nature crises.

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