Gordon Brown calls for airlift of 240 million COVID-19 vaccines

WHO adviser urges rich countries to send vaccines to low-income nations this month to save tens of thousands of lives.

Former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown is calling on leaders of the US, UK, EU and Canada to 'step up' and approve the airlift [File: AFP]

Former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown has called for an immediate airlift of unused COVID jabs to countries in the global south.

Brown, an adviser to the World Health Organization (WHO), is pressing the leaders of Canada, the European Union, the United Kingdom and the United States to hold an emergency summit to agree on the airlift ahead of the G20 meeting later this month.

He said an airlift of 240 million doses this month could save 100,000 lives.

It would be the first part of a plan to transfer a billion vaccine doses from rich countries to lower-income countries over several months, a plan he says could prevent “many of the one million COVID-induce deaths projected over the next year.”

“While vaccines have been pledged for donation from all donors, we are not getting the vaccines into people’s arms and urgently need a month-to-month timetable to meet our interim targets and prevent further loss of lives,”  Brown was quoted as saying by the Observer newspaper.

“An immediate emergency airlift of 240 million vaccines this month from the global north to the global south should be followed by the transfer of a further 760 million vaccines transferred by February. If we do not use the stockpiled vaccines, many – perhaps 100 million – will go to waste when they pass their use-by dates and expire,” he explained.

Brown said the project would require the military to mobilise aircraft and ground support to carry out the distribution of vaccines to 92 low-income countries where vaccination rates are at 5 percent.

He said COVAX, a WHO-backed global scheme to procure free coronavirus jabs for poorer countries, is the best way to hit WHO’s target that all countries vaccinate at least 40 percent of their populations by year’s end.

“Vital time to contain COVID, stop mutations and save lives is being wasted,” Brown said. “It needs our political leaders to step up to the sign-off. Every passing day is a day lost in the battle to contain COVID and save lives,” he added.

His comments came a month after he accused rich countries of committing a “moral outrage,” by stockpiling vaccine doses while poorer countries struggle to get supplies.

Source: Al Jazeera