Boris Johnson has been accused of taking a reckless strategy to public well being by lifting all plan B Covid restrictions in England whereas failing to take sufficient motion to get jabs to three billion unvaccinated individuals in poorer international locations.
The prime minister has robustly defended his file on the pandemic this week whereas awaiting the findings of the Sue Grey report on the “partygate” scandal, insisting he “acquired the large calls proper” on the largest world well being disaster in a century.
However now greater than 300 main scientists, well being consultants and lecturers have mentioned his failure to take adequate motion to spice up vaccination ranges worldwide means it’s extra seemingly new variants will put hundreds of lives in danger throughout the UK.
“We write to you as scientists, lecturers, and public well being consultants involved concerning the emergence of the Omicron variant and the risk that future variants could pose to public well being, the NHS, and the UK’s vaccination programme,” they mentioned in a two-page letter delivered to 10 Downing Avenue.
“Vaccinating the overwhelming majority of the world’s inhabitants is one of the best ways to stop Sars-CoV-2 from mutating. Nevertheless, because the UK has supplied booster doses to as much as 1 million individuals daily, greater than 3 billion individuals internationally have but to obtain their first dose. Extra boosters have been delivered in wealthy international locations than the entire variety of all doses administered up to now in poorer nations.
“Permitting enormous numbers of individuals in low- and middle-income international locations to stay unvaccinated is a reckless strategy to public well being that creates circumstances the place new Sars-CoV-2 variants of concern usually tend to develop.”
The letter has been signed in a private capability by 13 members of Johnson’s Sage committee and subcommittees, a fellow on the UK Well being Safety Company and an adviser to the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.
Nigel Crisp, the previous chief govt of the NHS in England, Nobel prize winner Sir Richard Roberts, and a number of other World Well being Group advisers are additionally among the many signatories.
They known as on Johnson to permit low- and middle-income international locations to fabricate Covid vaccines, checks, and coverings for themselves. Vaccinating the overwhelming majority of the world’s inhabitants was one of the best ways to stop additional coronavirus variants of concern, they added, together with variants that may very well be extra infectious or render present vaccines much less efficient.
They urged the prime minister to place public well being earlier than the pursuits of the pharmaceutical trade “to stop one other 12 months of uncertainty and tragedy” by supporting worldwide efforts to droop mental property guidelines that cease lower-income nations from manufacturing vaccines, checks, and coverings.
Vaccines won’t be efficient at stopping new variants of concern from arising “until we share this expertise with the world and improve world vaccination protection”, they added within the letter coordinated by science and well being consultants working with teams together with International Justice Now.
Crisp mentioned: “All through this pandemic, the federal government has pledged that it’s going to comply with the science. The scientific proof has been clear because the begin of the pandemic that one of the best ways to maintain ourselves and our NHS secure from new variants is to vaccinate the world.
“Nevertheless laudable donations of vaccines is likely to be, they may by no means be sufficient to finish the pandemic. There may be untapped manufacturing capability within the very nations that want vaccines and coverings most. For the sake of individuals’s lives in these international locations and our personal, we should use it.”
Laura Merson, affiliate director of the Infectious Illnesses Knowledge Observatory on the College of Oxford, mentioned safety supplied by boosters could be “critically restricted” whereas many of the world remained unvaccinated.
“The easing of plan B restrictions could give the impression that the pandemic is coming to an finish,” she mentioned. “However this gained’t be over till we handle the chance of latest variants on the root – in populations that haven’t had entry to vaccines.”
Maryam Shahmanesh, professor of worldwide well being at UCL, added: “By ignoring the calls for of low- and middle-income international locations and stifling world vaccine manufacturing with arbitrary mental property guidelines, the federal government dangers prolonging the pandemic and endangering numerous lives. We want an entire step-change if we’re to convey this pandemic to an finish for everybody.”
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