Reaction: UK deal with GSK and Sanofi will fuel COVID-19 vaccine nationalism among richer countries

London, 29 July 2020 - The UK government’s latest deal to secure advanced supplies of potential COVID-19 vaccines for the UK will fuel the global scramble to hoard vaccines by rich countries, public health and social justice organisations have warned. The move to purchase 60 million doses from pharmaceutical giants GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi undermines global efforts to ensure fair and world-wide access to COVID-19 vaccines. 

By locking in advanced deals with pharmaceutical companies, the government is contributing to a dangerous trend of vaccine nationalism by richer nations. The UK is racing ahead, along with the US and EU, to secure doses of potential vaccines across different vaccine candidates. These bilateral deals will reduce the initial global vaccine stocks available for vulnerable groups in poorer countries and undermine global efforts to ensure fair allocation.  

Heidi Chow, Global Justice Now:
“The government’s race to secure vaccine deals makes a mockery of its own rhetoric on equitable global access to COVID-19 vaccines. This UK-first approach is fuelling a dangerous scramble with rich countries hoarding initial vaccine supplies, leaving poorer countries without. Ensuring fair access is not just a matter of equity but it is the fastest way to end this global pandemic and the government should be supporting global fair allocation based on public health needs rather that trying to win a self-defeating race of who can hoard the fastest.”

Roz Scourse, MSF Access Campaign:
“The UK should refrain from pursuing these advance purchase deals with pharmaceutical corporations for COVID-19 vaccines. Given that there will be limited initial supplies of any successful COVID-19 vaccine, we need to ensure that priority populations such as healthcare workers around the world get access first. This “Britain first” approach is blatant vaccine nationalism and completely undermines global coordination and collaboration efforts led by the World Health Organization to ensure global equitable allocation. There frankly won’t be enough vaccine to go around, at least initially – vaccines will need to be prioritised for those most at risk, not hoarded by individual countries.”

Diarmaid McDonald, Just Treatment:
“Instead of accelerating an arms race for access to COVID-19 tools by competing with other countries to get preferential access to potential vaccines, the UK should be taking a collaborative approach. This kind of COVID nationalism, combined with unjustifiable big pharma monopolies, puts lives at risk - including those of NHS patients and staff.

"The government must urgently change tack and support the WHO COVID Technology Pool so we can speed up collaborative research and prevent the supply and affordability issues that arise from monopolies on medicines. The government should be using its investments in COVID-19 vaccine research and development to make sure that everyone gets fair and affordable access to a vaccine, instead of sparking a race that patients will lose as big pharma profit.”

James Cole, STOPAIDS:
“This is yet another example of wealthy countries pushing themselves to the front of the queue for vaccines. This nationalistic deal ignores the international collaboration and solidarity needed to ensure equitable access to vaccines and end the pandemic. A recent YouGov poll found the UK public overwhelmingly support equitable global access to COVID-19 vaccines and treatments. Governments must put their focus on how to work with the World Health Organization to avoid a future scenario in which there is starkly unequal access to a vaccine across the world and where healthcare workers in the poorest communities are left unprotected.”


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