In the UK, leading scientists have warned the government that patent protections on coronavirus vaccines are “threatening the security” of the vaccination programme and could result in further lockdowns.
They said the government is running the risk of “producing variants instead of vaccines” by allowing the virus to spread in poorer countries which could lead to new variants.
Professor Stephen Reicher, professor of social psychology at the University of St Andrew’s and member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) subcommittee on behavioural science, said:
We need urgent action to allow poorer countries to produce their own safe, effective vaccines for their populations by waiving patents. That would be a truly remarkable gift to the world. It would help increase our standing in the world at a time when we so badly need trading partners. And ultimately it is the only means of consigning Covid to history and so ending the threat of further lockdowns for good.
Christina Pagel, Professor of operational research at University College London and a member of the Independent SAGE group of scientists, said:
The government is banking on the UK’s relatively advanced vaccine rollout to provide protection against Covid-19 after July 19. But vaccines can only protect us for so long, while the pandemic rages on in low and middle-income countries, spreading among the billions of unvaccinated people.
Each new infection risks developing new variants of Covid-19 that are more virulent or resistant to our current vaccines. If that happens, our entire vaccination programme could be derailed making further coronavirus restrictions and lockdowns all but inevitable.
Just 1% of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to Oxford University. Over 130 countries support the waiver, including the US and France, but Germany and the UK have blocked the proposal.