Dr David Nabarro said it was “totally understandable” the UK had ordered 400 million doses of vaccines, but stressed the “priority” was to ensure to most at risk of getting severely ill or dying for the virus in all countries receive a jab.
His comments came as Nadhim Zahawi, the minister responsible for the vaccine rollout, said he was confident the government could reach its “tough” target of offering a vaccine to all those over 50 by May.
When this phase is completed ministers will then turn their attention to accelerating the vaccination programme for millions of younger adults, with plans for “jabs at work” under discussion in government, according to The Sunday Telegraph.
But pressed on Sky News’s Sophy Ridge programme whether the UK should begin giving away vaccines to other countries once the most vulnerable and over 50s have received their vaccinations, Mr Nabarro replied: “I think we should.
“Of course, each prime minister, each group of MPs, has to form their own decisions but it is really a question of what makes sense economically, what makes sense for society and how it will want to be remembered in 10 or 20 years’ time.
“If we want to be remembered as a world where those who have the cash can afford to vaccinate their whole populations but countries that didn’t have the cash to cope with a dramatically increasing death rate amongst health workers, I don’t think so.
“I don’t think that’s how any individual really wants to be seen when they look at themselves over the years. I think it’s perhaps time for a global decision on wheat the priorities should be because in the end we’re human and humans need to be able to work with each other whatever their race, whatever their ethnicity, whatever their role.”
The UK government has suggested it could share “excess” doses with neighbouring and developing country, but has not specified when that could be the case.
Speaking last week, the international trade secretary Liz Truss said the government must first ensure the British population is vaccinated, but added: “In future months we hope to be in a position to help other countries with vaccine supply.”
As official government figures showed the UK had given at least one dose to 11.4 million people, the mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham also suggested that poorer areas of the country where life expectancy is lower should be given additional supplies of Covid-19 vaccines.
“It has to be a judgement based on health,” he said. “It also is the case that those same areas where life expectancy is lowest tend to be the places where more people are out at work in those key professions, working in essential retail and supermarkets or driving buses or driving taxis, so clearly they are at greater risk.
“I’m not saying diverge completely from the phased (approach) set out by ages put forward by the JCVI [Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation], but what I am saying is put greater supplies of the vaccine into those areas where life expectancy is lowest and allow greater flexibility for people to be called earlier.”
Mr Zahawi also told the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme he was confident all over 50s would be offered a jab by May, as he revealed that nearly 1,000 vaccines a minute were administered in an hour on Saturday morning.
“The limiting factor is vaccine supply so the vaccine supply remain finite,” he said. “I can tell you that yesterday between 11 and 12 o’clock we almost got to 1,000 jabs a minute, we got to 979 jabs a minute.”
“I’m confident we’ll meet our mid-February target of the top four cohorts, I’m also confidence because I have enough line of sight of deliveries that are coming through, that we will also meet the one to nine cohorts by May. It’s a tough target by the way, many, many people who are clinically extremely vulnerable have to be reached by GPs, some can’t travel.”