Coronavirus is a global issue and it is absolutely right that Britain plays its part in the global recovery from this awful pandemic. The UK has helped to raise $1 billion for the coronavirus COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC) through match-funding other donors, which combined with the £548 million of UK aid pledged will help distribute at least 1.3 billion doses of coronavirus vaccines to 92 developing countries this year. The Government has also provided funding for the AstraZeneca vaccine, produced at cost to low and middle-income countries, at scale and through manufacturing partnerships across the world.
I'm aware of the proposal submitted by India and South Africa to waive some terms of the Agreement on the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement). Coronavirus is an urgent global emergency and rapid action is required to expand production and distribution of vaccines, while of course keeping in mind associated risks: not undermining our capacity to fight other diseases, or the quality and safety of medicines. The overriding aim must be to increase vaccine supply.
The UK is engaging with the US and other WTO members constructively on the TRIPs waiver issue However, any negotiations in the WTO on a possible waiver will require unanimous support, which could take a significant amount of time. I know my colleagues in Government will constructively engage in the IP discussions, but I believe we must also continue to push ahead with more immediate action, particularly our support for COVAX and, indeed, voluntary licensing and tech transfer agreements for vaccines.
The Prime Minister has previously said that the UK will donate the majority of any vaccines that are surplus to UK needs with COVAX to support developing countries. Within the last few days, the Prime Minister has committed the UK to donate 100 million vaccine doses to poorer countries in the next year, as part of a plan due to be unveiled by G7 leaders this weekend that will see 1 billion jabs provided to the world. This will ensure that vaccines go to those countries that are most in need and where they will be most effective. I’m sure further discussions will be had on this topic at the G7 meeting in Cornwall.
As a former Parliamentary Secretary at the then Department of International Development, I am absolutely clear that it is our duty to provide support to developing countries during this difficult time.