Surplus vaccines must be shared, say Anglican leaders

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Anglican leaders are calling on G7 nations to put a stop to the "hoarding" of Covid-19 vaccines.

The plea has come from the Archbishop of Canterbury and two Anglican bodies - the Anglican Communion Health & Community Network and Anglican Alliance.

They warn of potentially millions of vaccines going to waste at a time when poorer nations are struggling to vaccinate their populations.

In a joint statement backed by Archbishop Justin Welby, the Anglican Communion Health & Community Network and Anglican Alliance said wealthy nations are on track to amass a billion spare vaccine donations by the end of the year.

"Rich nations must not hoard the surpluses amassed – but must share," the statement says.

"The lives and health of millions around the world are at risk, alongside the threat of new variants emerging globally."

While affluent countries like the UK and Germany have achieved upwards of 60 per cent coverage, in Africa only 2 per cent of the population is vaccinated.

This is despite G7 leaders promising at a meeting in Cornwall earlier this year to donate over a billion doses to poorer countries. It is estimated that only around 15 per cent of this pledge has been met to date.

Adding to the challenge is the relatively short shelf life of the vaccines - around six months - with thousands of doses already discarded due to expiration.

"Vaccines have 'use by' dates. If not put into people's arms, significant parts of the excess being generated will need to be destroyed," the Anglican statement continues.

"It is a matter of extreme concern that if not shared, hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of vaccines that have been purchased by rich nations will go to waste."

The UN General Assembly in New York is expected to decide on Wednesday whether to call an emergency G7 meeting to address the issue.

The Church of England's College of Bishops, meeting in Oxford this week, voted unanimously to back the statement from the Anglican bodies, and Archbishop Welby has written to the UN Secretary General António Guterres in support of the call.

The Bishop of Hertford, Michael Beasley, who is an epidemiologist and Co-Convenor of the Anglican Health & Community Network, brought the statement to the College of Bishops to ask for their support.

He said: "Our archbishops and bishops have spoken unanimously to add their voices to calls for the G7 countries urgently to meet to address the issues of rich nations' hoarding and wastage of vaccines.

"We ask the G7 leaders to find ways to recognise that we are one world and to share vaccines so that no one will be left behind."