A failure to send unused coronavirus vaccines from Europe and America to developing countries would be an act of “criminal” neglect, Gordon Brown has said.
The former prime minister warned there has been a “lack of co-ordination” from western nations in helping other countries vaccinate their populations against Covid-19.
He described the prospect of wasting vaccines as peacetime’s “biggest public policy failure for years” and called for excess doses to be airlifted to places struggling to access them.
Speaking on Sky News, Mr Brown said a report due to come out on Monday suggests there are approximately 240 million vaccines sitting in Europe and America that are unlikely to be used for months.
He said: “Many of them may go to waste – and that would be criminal – which could immediately be airlifted out to those countries where the level of vaccination is so low that not even the nurses and doctors are protected and certainly not the elderly and vulnerable.
“Boris Johnson promised at the G7 that he was going to vaccinate the whole world.
“He made this bold announcement that, by next year, everybody would be vaccinated who was an adult in the developing world as well as the developed world.
“But since then, so little has happened that we now face the possibility of every target being missed.
“Ten per cent by September: missed. 40% By December: likely to be missed. 70% by next year: likely to be missed.
“So we’ve got to take action immediately to use these unused vaccines to save lives.
“One hundred thousand lives have been saved in Britain because of 100 million vaccines. How many more lives can be saved in the rest of the world if we get these vaccines to people who need them?”
Challenged about his suggestion of criminality, Mr Brown said: “I was talking about neglect.
“I do think that this is a lack of co-ordination.
“If (US) President Biden, Boris Johnson, Ursula von der Leyen – the president of the European Union – (Canadian PM) Justin Trudeau came together, they would find that they had these unused vaccines that are not going to be used.
“Even after all the boosters, there are excess vaccines that are not going to be used and they should get them out as quickly as possible.”
He also suggested that Mr Johnson had missed a meeting, hosted by Mr Biden, to discuss getting vaccines sent to developing countries and said the PM should answer to the House of Commons about what role he played in that summit.
A Downing Street source told the PA news agency that the Prime Minister did miss his speaking slot, but said it was because the meeting was running late and he was due to attend a wreath-laying event at Arlington Cemetery in Washington DC.