UK Covid boosters outstripping first jabs in Africa per capita

More people have received a Covid booster vaccination in the UK per head of population than are reported to have had their first shot in Africa, according to the latest available data.

By 26 October, 9.4% of the UK’s population had received a booster dose, compared with 8.5% of Africa’s population who had received their first dose, according to Our World in Data, with 5.6% fully vaccinated across the continent as of the same date.

The data reveals the state of vaccine inequality between high and low-income countries, particularly in Africa, with the UK among those accused of hoarding vaccines at the expense of more vulnerable populations.

It comes as the British government and other G20 countries were the focus of calls from more than 160 former world leaders and global figures in a letter organised by Gordon Brown to urgently arrange a military airlift of surplus Covid vaccines to poorer countries.

The UK was also accused days ago of lagging behind every other G7 country except Japan in sharing surplus Covid vaccines with poorer countries, according to the advocacy organisation One.

Vaccines graphic

The organisation found the UK had committed to sharing 30m doses, compared with commitments from Germany for 100m doses, France for 60m, Italy 45m and Canada 41.5m.

The figures also show that the UK has so far distributed only a third of the vaccines it had pledged to in the year to date.

The UN also said last month that G7 countries overall had only delivered a third of the vaccines they had pledged to African countries.

The World Health Organization’s director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, said: “Actions speak far louder than words and African countries need clear delivery dates so they can plan properly. We also need strong structures set up to ensure that all promises made are promises kept.”

Prof Helen Rees, a medical researcher and chair of the WHO’s regional immunisation technical advisory group for Africa, said manufacturing companies were also partly to blame for prioritising vaccine supplies to wealthy nations, even when low-income countries had the means to procure them.

Anna Marriott, a senior policy adviser at Oxfam, said: “That even health workers on the frontline and older people are still not protected across Africa speaks volumes about how rich country governments have turned their back on the world.

The director of Global Justice Now, Nick Dearden, said the UK’s record on helping developing countries to access vaccines was shameful. “It’s deeply disturbing, but sadly unsurprising, that the British government has cut in front of the world’s poorest to roll out third jabs to our fully vaccinated population,” he said.

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