Stars back Unicef's plea for wealthy countries to donate Covid-19 vaccines

·2-min read

Stars including Billie Eilish and David Beckham have backed Unicef’s plea for wealthy countries to regularly donate Covid-19 vaccines to poorer nations.

The charity has warned against rich governments sending large supplies of leftover doses to countries in need because they don’t have the infrastructure to distribute them all at once and they risk being wasted.

Instead, Unicef is calling for a steady supply of vaccine to be distributed and encouraged countries to donate 20 per cent of their vaccination stock between June and August.

Famous faces such as Olivia Colman, Ewan McGregor, Liam Payne, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Orlando Bloom, Katy Perry, Gemma Chan, Whoopi Goldberg, Claudia Schiffer and Andy Murray have signed a letter sent to the G7 – the organisation made up of wealthy democracies including the U.S., U.K., Canada, France, Germany, Japan and Italy – calling for them to help other countries in need.

"The pandemic will not be over anywhere until it is over everywhere," said Beckham.

There has been a heated debate over the decision to immunise people under 18 in wealthy countries where a large proportion of the adult population have already had the vaccine, despite many other nations being unable to roll out a programme to protect those who are older or have underlying health conditions.

Unicef officials insist countries must vaccinate residents at the same time around the world, and that the focus must be on those most at risk of becoming seriously ill or dying from coronavirus.

"At some point, no doubt, we will need to vaccinate under-18s," Lily Caprani, Unicef's vaccine lead, told BBC Newsnight. "But the priority at this moment has to be making sure that all of the vulnerable and priority groups around the world get vaccines.

"So we're saying countries like the U.K. and the G7 need to donate their doses to those low-income countries now, while still vaccinating their populations at home."

Unicef bosses have been delivering vaccines to poorer countries but said they are 190 million doses short of what is required.

"The virus is still spreading in many countries and producing new variants with the potential to put us all back where we started," the letter to the G7 group said.

The U.S., France, Germany, Italy and Japan have pledged to donate a set number of vaccines to Covax – a worldwide initiative aimed at equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines. Canada and the U.K. have also agreed to send vaccines, but have not yet disclosed how many.