The Prime Minister will co-host a virtual Coronavirus Global Response International Pledging Conference, aiming to raise £7 billion to develop vaccines, treatments and tests to help end the Covid-19 pandemic. – AFP
Boris Johnson will on Monday describe the race to develop a coronavirus vaccine as “the most urgent shared endeavour of our lifetimes” as he urges countries not to see it as a competition.
The Prime Minister will co-host a virtual Coronavirus Global Response International Pledging Conference, aiming to raise £7 billion to develop vaccines, treatments and tests to help end the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mr Johnson is expected to say: “To win this battle, we must work together to build an impregnable shield around all our people, and that can only be achieved by developing and mass-producing a vaccine.
“The more we pull together and share our expertise, the faster our scientists will succeed. The race to discover the vaccine to defeat this virus is not a competition between countries but the most urgent shared endeavour of our lifetimes. It’s humanity against the virus – we are in this together, and together we will prevail.”
The US will not attend today’s summit. President Trump has instead said his focus is “Operation Warp Speed”, which aims to have enough doses to cover most Americans by the end of this year, sparking concerns he is adopting an “America First” approach.
In March, the German newspaper Die Welt reported that the Trump administration had offered a German medical company “large sums of money” for exclusive access to a vaccine.
The comments came after Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, suggested that life in the UK would not return to how it was before the pandemic until a vaccine was developed. Asked at the daily press conference by The Telegraph when life would return to normal, Mr Gove said: “Unless and until we have a vaccine I suspect that we are going to have to live with some degree of constraint.”
Senior Tory MPs have also warned that Britain could be “at the back of the queue” if China was first on a vaccine.
One former Tory minister told The Telegraph: “The US and China are both outside of this coalition. If the US gets it first, I am sure we will be up there in the queue. If China gets it first, there’s simply no chance it’s going to come this far west. It will go to all the other countries that have been less critical about China.”
A government source added: “If China starts to manufacture it [a vaccine] at scale, we are not taking it for granted that China would start to share it with other countries.”
Downing Street said that Mr Jonhson’s words were not aimed at any one country. Most experts think a vaccine is likely to become available by the middle of next year, around 12 to 18 months after the new virus first emerged.
Tobias Ellwood, the Conservative MP who chairs the Commons defence select committee, said: “The prestige and economic power that accompanies procurement of a vaccine can be compared landing a man on the moon and winning the space race.
“With power over manufacture and distribution it allows the winner not only to truly exit from COVID-19 and unconditionally restart the economy but yield immense authority in determining the vaccine role out across the world.”
He said the government must “prepare for scenarios where Britain, and the coalition we are part of, may not be in the front of the queue, adding:“America and China’s absence illustrate firstly, how frail collective Western resolve has become in responding to international threats and secondly, how a rising China does not play by global rules.”
The UK has provided £744 million for the global response to the virus and is one of the biggest supporters of the effort to find a vaccine. It has also pledged £250 million for the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations. Today’s summit will be attended by Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Norway, Saudi Arabia, and the EC.
The new “COV-access agreement” means that wherever a vaccine is developed the UK will be allowed equal access to use it and administer it to Britons. Mr Johnson’s comments seem to contradict previous remarks by Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, who said that Britons must be first in the queue for any UK developed vaccine.