Gordon Brown warns 100 million vaccines could be wasted
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The former Prime Minister appeared on Sky News this morning amid concerns over a new variant of COVID-19. First discovered in South Africa, the Omicron variant has put scientists around the world on red alert. But Mr Brown is not surprised by the news and has blamed a lack of vaccines in poorer countries for the development of new coronavirus variants.
He said this morning: “I’ve been very clear, speaking on behalf of the World Health Organisation (WHO) that we need to get vaccines out to the rest of the world.
“There are about 100 million vaccines in the West that will be wasted by the end of the year because they won’t be used.
“People hate waste and hate that the vaccines will pass their expiry dates and not be used.”
Fewer than 6 percent of people in Africa have been fully immunised against Covid-19 and millions of health workers and vulnerable populations have yet to receive a single dose.
Those conditions can speed up the spread of the virus, offering more opportunities for it to evolve into a dangerous variant.
It comes after the UK placed six countries – South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibia – on the red travel list following the discovery of Omicron.
Mr Brown praised the move.
He added: “As far as Britain is concerned, you have to act quickly.
“In September, the SAGE committee recommended the wider use of masks, that has got to come in, obviously.
“People have got to take the advice about hand washing and social distancing if we are going to avoid the problems of last Christmas this Christmas.
“We have to take the action, it’s clear what’s necessary.”
But he said that the advice to test and vaccinate “must apply to the whole world or this disease will continue to spread somewhere else”.
He added: “It will come back to haunt us, even the fully vaccinated if we have not taken action in other countries.
“We talk about leftover vaccines, when you get them out but probably at the last minute to the countries that need them.
“The better way is to think ‘we are producing, soon, two billion vaccines a month, if we have excess supply we should get them out as quickly as possible.
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“If we had a coordinator we would not run the risk of 100 million vaccines being wasted.”
It comes as the South African doctor who raised the alarm over the new COVID-19 variant has said patients with Omicron have “very mild symptoms” in what could be a “Christmas gift” for experts concerned about its spread.
Dr Angelique Coetzee, a private practitioner and chair of the South African Medical Association, was one of the first to detect there was a new strain.
She says she has seen around 30 patients over the past 10 days who tested positive for COVID-19 but had unfamiliar symptoms.
They are suspected to have the Omicron variant, but Dr Coetzee says the symptoms are “very mild”.
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