Thought for the day 19 February

There are reports in the media that at a virtual meeting of G7 leaders today richer countries will be urged to donate part of their vaccine orders to poorer countries where little or no vaccination has been done. Apart from the altruistic, inclusive concern that everyone on the planet should be protected from the virus as soon as possible, there are practical considerations for politicians too: if they want to open up world trade and travel, large areas of the world being unvaccinated limits that plan; and the longer large sections of the world population are unvaccinated, the greater the chance that new variants will appear, some of which may be resistant to vaccines. President Macron has proposed that 4-5% of current supplies should be donated, to start vaccinations as soon as possible. The Prime Minister has said that the majority of Britain’s surplus supply will be donated (400m doses have been ordered) but no timescale has been indicated. Around 130 countries around the world have yet to begin any kind of vaccination programme. Apart from obtaining government approval of the vaccines in these countries, there are a number of major hurdles to rolling out a programme: availability of people to do the vaccinations; suitable/hygienic healthcare facilities where they can be done; conflict zones; corrupt/authoritarian regimes; isolated peoples; suspicion of ‘Western’ medicine. Tanzania is a good example of the latter: the President declared last June that the country is Covid-free. Little testing has been done, and there is no plan for vaccinations. The Health Minister held a press conference recently promoting the benefits of vegetable smoothies in giving protection, and the President recommended steam inhalation and herbal medicines

Lord, the whole world population (almost 8 billion of us) is at risk of catching coronavirus. We are grateful for the work that has led to people here being vaccinated, but we are conscious that the situation is very different in most middle- and low-income countries. Inspire the international community to take bold steps to make vaccines available for people in these countries, and to get them safely and quickly to people who need them

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