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West stockpiling of COVID vaccines 'moral outrage': Gordon Brown

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)

Former British prime minister Gordon Brown has accused the West of committing a "moral outrage" by stockpiling COVID-19 vaccines, even as poor countries are struggling to obtain supplies to get their populations vaccinated.

Brown, currently a United Nations special envoy, wrote in an opinion piece published in the Sunday Mirror newspaper that Western countries are hoarding nearly 300 million shots while only 70 million people in Africa have so far been vaccinated.

Citing research by data firm Airfinity, he said by Christmas, the West is set to have 1 billion surplus doses even if every European and American adult has received a booster shot and all children over 12 have been injected.

“We are in a new ‘arms’ race – to get vaccines into people as quickly as possible – but this is an arms race where the West have a stranglehold on the vaccine supplies,” Brown said. 

The former prime minister called on US President Joe Biden and other Group of Seven (G7) leaders to urgently ship vaccines to Africa.

He said their grip on vaccine stocks was stopping Covax, a worldwide initiative aimed at providing equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, from meeting its promise to send 2 billion doses to poorer countries this year.

Brown’s remarks came as around half a million people in the UK are to be offered a third jab.

Last month, the Biden administration also announced a plan to offer booster shots to all Americans.

The World Health Organization (WHO) condemned the rush by the wealthy countries to provide booster shots, comparing the move to providing “extra life jackets to people who already have life jackets, while we're leaving other people to drown without a single life jacket.”

Biden, however, defended the plan by saying that the US has donated more vaccine doses than the rest of the world combined.

Vaccine inequality 'a failure of international community'

Separately, the director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, which has developed one of the COVID-19 jabs produced by AstraZeneca, denounced the current inequality in vaccine distribution as “a failure of the international community.”

Professor Andrew Pollard told FRANCE 24 that close to 80 percent of people in the European Union (EU) have received at least one dose of one of the COVID-19 vaccines.

But, the average for African countries is less than 8 percent, he pointed out. “About 10,000 people will die today because they didn't have access to a vaccine,” he added.

Pollard also warned that the pandemic "only ends when the whole world has got control of the severe disease that puts the burden on health systems.”

The coronavirus has so far killed more than 4.5 million people around the world.

The US is the worst-affected country with over 645,000 deaths. 

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