A COALITION of charities in Wales wants Mark Drakeford to use his position to influence the UK Government's position on sharing vaccine science and technology.

The call comes as it's a year since UK grandmother Margaret Keenan, who was then aged 90, became the first person in the world to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

Since December last year more than three billion people worldwide have been vaccinated but many poorer parts of the world have been left behind.

The campaign is warning that variants, such as the Omicron strain identified in South Africa, will continue to develop and spread if billions in developing countries are denied access to vaccines.

While countries like the UK and Canada have had enough doses to fully vaccinate their entire populations, Sub-Saharan Africa has only received enough doses to vaccinate one in eight people. 

The number of people in the UK who’ve had a third, booster, jab is almost the same as the total number of people fully vaccinated across all of the world’s poorest countries.

The People’s Vaccine Alliance, which has over 80 members including the African Alliance, Oxfam and UNAIDS, are calling for pharmaceutical firms and rich nations to re-think their approach.


Its members and supporters in Wales include Oxfam Cymru, the Wales Overseas Agencies Group, the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, Sophie Howe, Wales and Africa Health Links Network, Size of Wales, PONT, CAFOD, Christian Aid Wales and Disability in Wales and Africa.

It is calling on first minister Mark Drakeford to speak out and personally urge Prime Minister Boris Johnson to act. The UK Government has resisted joining countries – including the US – that are backing proposals to temporarily suspend the rules currently preventing vaccine science and know how from being shared.

Sarah Rees, head of Oxfam Cymru, said: "The consequences of pharmaceutical companies being allowed to hold lifesaving vaccine recipes and technology hostage are crystal clear: there simply aren’t enough doses to go around and until there are, we’ll continue to see new variants like Omicron threatening lives, vaccine efficacy and fragile economic recoveries in all countries, including in Wales and across the UK.    

“The first minister must send a clear, personal message to Boris Johnson that if he continues to put patent and profit protection above saving lives, he is standing on the wrong side of history and Wales will not stand alongside him.”    

Claire O’Shea, chair of the Wales Overseas Agencies Group, said: “The Omicron variant first identified in South Africa is a stark reminder to us all that global vaccine equity should be an absolute priority.  

“The immediate response of the UK Government has been to expand the domestic booster programme. But where is the urgent action to vaccinate people for the first time in countries; especially in countries where health systems are far more fragile, and where those exposed to the virus are at greater risk of dying? 

“The first minster and Welsh Government must call on UK Government to support the global south to manufacture their own vaccines."

Last month the Senedd passed a Plaid Cymru motion that called on the UK Government to join the 100 other countries – including the US – that  backing proposals to temporarily suspend rules currently preventing vaccine science and know how from being shared.

Heledd Fychan MS, Plaid Cymru’s spokesperson for international affairs, said: “A global pandemic requires a global response, and we in Wales have a responsibility, as a higher-income country, to share our expertise and long-term support to lower-income countries to bring the pandemic under control."

In the summer, ahead of the roll out of the vaccine programme to children in the UK, Drakeford said calls for donating vaccines to the developing world would be best addressed at a UK level, rather than by the Welsh Government.

But he acknowledged vaccines need to be made available to the developing world and said: "I follow very carefully what Gordon Brown, for example, has been saying about the UK’s obligation to make sure other parts of the world get their supply of vaccines, because none of us are safe until everybody is safe in this health crises."

  • This article originally appeared on our sister site The National.