UK pushes for UN pact on vaccine ceasefires in war zones


UK Foreign secretary Dominic Raab (Photo by Peter Summers/Getty Images)
UK Foreign secretary Dominic Raab (Photo by Peter Summers/Getty Images)

BRITAIN will on Wednesday(17) call on the UN Security Council to push for temporary ceasefires in conflict zones to enable the “moral duty” of rolling out vaccines against the coronavirus.

Britain holds the council’s chair this month and foreign secretary Dominic Raab said his resolution would also demand “equitable access” around the world to vaccines against the pandemic.

“Global vaccination coverage is essential to beating coronavirus,” he said in a statement, stressing the need for temporary ceasefires to help inoculate more than 160 million people at risk in conflict zones such as Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and Ethiopia.

“We have a moral duty to act, and a strategic necessity to come together to defeat this virus.”

Britain has committed £548 million ($760 million) to the UN’s Covax vaccine fund and will use the Security Council meeting, as well as a virtual G7 summit on Friday(19) which it is also chairing, to lobby for more donations.

Barbara Woodward, Britain’s UN envoy, conceded that implementing the Security Council resolution would be an “immense political, logistical and funding challenge”.

Several countries, including Security Council members China and Russia along with some Gulf nations, have already launched “vaccine diplomacy” initiatives, either showcasing their own production capacity or providing easier access to vaccine doses.

But Woodward, stressing the need for global coordination, told reporters: “This is of course the right thing to do but it is also in all countries’ interest. No one is safe until all of us are safe.”

Britain in December launched the world’s first mass vaccination programme against Covid-19, and aims to inoculate all adults with at least a first dose by September.

But the government says it is too soon to look at freeing up any surplus doses for other countries, arguing that follow-up jabs could be needed against emerging variants. It has pointed instead to its funding for UN programmes.

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