This week the UK will continue delivering COVID-19 vaccines around the world, including to Uganda, to ensure equitable access to the vaccines and help tackle the pandemic. In July Foreign Secretary Mr. Dominic Raab announced that the UK would begin delivering nine million COVID-19 vaccines around the world.
Five million of these doses are being offered to the COVAX Facility to ensure equitable, global access to COVID-19 vaccines. Through the COVAX Facility, the much-needed vaccines will urgently be distributed to lower-income countries, including Uganda, via an equitable allocation system, which prioritises timely delivery to people who most need them. Another four million doses will be shared directly with countries in need.
As part of this Uganda will receive 299,520 doses of the University of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, made by Oxford Biomedica in Oxford and packaged in Wrexham, North Wales.
This is the first tranche of the 100 million vaccines the Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged the UK would share within the next year at last month’s G7 in Cornwall, with 30 million due to be sent by the end of the year.
At least 80 million of the 100 million doses will go to COVAX, with the rest going to countries directly. The donations follow the pledge that G7 leaders made to vaccinate the world and end the pandemic in 2022.
This week’s deployment will help meet the urgent need for vaccines from countries around the world, including in Africa, which continues to experience high levels of COVID-19 cases, hospitalisations and deaths.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: “The UK is sending nine million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine, the first batch of the 100 million doses we’ve pledged, to get the most vulnerable parts of the world vaccinated as a matter of urgency.
“We’re doing this to help the most vulnerable, but also because we know we won’t be safe until everyone is safe,” he added.
The UK has been at the forefront of the global response to COVID-19, including through investing £90 million to support the development of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. Over half a billion doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine have been delivered at a non-profit price globally, with two-thirds going to lower and middle-income countries.
The UK also kickstarted efforts to establish COVAX in 2020, providing a total of £548 million to fund vaccines for lower income countries. The scheme has delivered more than 152 million vaccine doses to over 137 countries and territories, including in 83 lower-middle income countries.
65% of the initial vaccine doses have been Oxford-AstraZeneca. COVAX aims to deliver 1.8 billion vaccines to lower-income countries around the world by early 2022.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “This is a global pandemic and Covid-19 vaccines are the best way to protect people and prevent the emergence of new variants. We want to make sure developing countries can build a wall of defence against the virus as we have in the UK through our vaccine rollout.
“The UK is one of the largest donors to COVAX and this donation is part of our pledge to send 100 million vaccines to some of the world’s least developed countries.
“The government has secured enough doses for all UK residents, crown dependencies and overseas territories to support our ongoing vaccination programme and booster programme.”
Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which is co-leading COVAX alongside the World Health Organization and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, said:
“The UK has been a steadfast supporter of COVAX since its inception and this announcement comes at an important time.”
“Global vaccine demand is far outstripping supply, leaving millions of the most vulnerable unprotected, while higher vaccine coverage worldwide is one of our best shields against new variants.
“In this pandemic nobody is safe until everyone is safe.”
Sir Mene Pangalos, Executive Vice President BioPharmaceuticals R&D at AstraZeneca, said: “Each day we’re making progress in our mission to change the course of this pandemic by providing broad and equitable access to AstraZeneca’s vaccine. We are proud that over 80% of countries across the world have received doses of our vaccine, with two thirds supplied to lower middle income and low income countries.
“The close collaboration between UK Government and our academic and industry partners is critical to ensure we deliver vaccines at speed and protect as many people as possible against this deadly virus.”
Kate Airey, The British High Commissioner to Uganda said, “I’m delighted that the UK has been able to send a further 299,520 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Uganda to help the most vulnerable and key workers to receive protection through the COVID vaccine.
The additional 299,520 doses from the UK will be used to give a second dose to high priority groups and the most vulnerable, including teachers, those 50 years and over and those 18 years and older with underlying health risks.
To date, Uganda has received 1,725,280 vaccines through the COVAX scheme. The UK will continue to support the COVID response in Uganda and other countries, contributing over 100m doses globally in the coming months, and advocating globally for fairer distribution of vaccines, helping us all to reduce COVID risk”.
Dr. Munir Safieldin, UNICEF Representative in Uganda said that “UNICEF Uganda Office appreciates the 299,520 AZ vaccines dose-sharing by the UK. The arrival of this shipment in Uganda is very timely as the demand for vaccination is currently exceeding the available supply of vaccines. I urge other countries to share more vaccines with middle- and low-income countries. No one is safe until everyone is safe. Thank you, UK for this contribution.”
We need to work together to end the pandemic; only a truly global response can protect health services and the people children rely on. In this race against time to end the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccinate people, it is critical that as many safe and effective vaccines as possible are available to as many people as possible as quickly as possible.