The UK has now secured 400 million doses of various COVID-19 vaccines, six times its total population. It’s already vaccinated almost 9 million people. But meanwhile just one of the 29 poorest countries in the world has received any jabs: Guinea, which had 55 donated by Russia.

This is called “vaccine nationalism”: when rich countries hoard vaccines at the expense of poor countries — and the World Health Organisation (WHO) has requested that the UK rethink its current strategy once it has protected its vulnerable and elderly.

Right now, the UK government’s plan is to have offered vaccines to 15 million people aged 70 and over by the middle of February. Then throughout the spring, it will move down the age groups, until everyone over the age of 50 has been immunised. According to the BBC, that represents somewhere between 90-99% of those most at risk of death from COVID-19.

But the WHO has said that, once that threshold has been passed, the UK should look at supplying vaccines to the world’s poorest countries, so they can immunise their health workers, their vulnerable, and their elderly too.

“We’re asking countries, once you’ve got those high-risk and health care worker groups [vaccinated], please ensure that the supply you’ve got access to is provided for others,” Harris said. “While that’s morally the right thing to do, it’s also economically the right thing to do.”

“There have been a number of very interesting analyses showing that just vaccinating your own country and then sitting there and saying ‘we’re fine’ won’t work economically,” she added. “That phrase ‘no man is an island’ applies economically as well … Unless we get all societies working effectively once again, every society will be financially affected.”

Another way that the UK could stem the tide of vaccine nationalism is by increasing its support even further for COVAX — a scheme that aims to deliver 2 billion vaccine doses to low-income countries in 2021. It’s one part of the ACT-Accelerator, a collaboration of international organisations set up to ensure that the tools to end the pandemic are equitably distributed.

Read the full article about vaccine nationalism by James Hitchings-Hales at Global Citizen.