Why Not Donate Our Remaining Vaccines to Other Countries?

In its latest U-turn, the Government has announced that full vaccination will be a “condition of entry” to nightclubs and other crowded venues from the end of September.

The Vaccines Minister, Nadhim Zahawi, had previously ruled out vaccine passports, noting, “That’s not how we do things”. Back in January, Claire Fox even asked him on Twitter, “Can we hold you to this?” and he replied, “Yes you can Claire”.

Given the number of delays there have been to the “full” re-opening, this latest U-turn hardly comes as a surprise. Indeed, the Government’s journey out of lockdown has had more about-turns than a middle-distance swimming event.

Making full vaccination a condition of entry for nightclubs seems designed not only to curtail super-spreading, but also to incentivise more young people to get vaccinated. But why is getting young people vaccinated a Government priority in the first place?

We’ve known since the beginning of the pandemic that COVID deaths among young people are vanishingly rare. As I noted recently, only 25 people aged under 18 in England died of COVID-19 up to February of this year, which equates to a survival rate of 99.995%. And the survival rate for 18–25 year olds isn’t much lower.

Rather than for their own safety, the main justification for vaccinating young people is to reduce the spread of COVID-19, i.e., for older people’s safety. But the vast majority of older people – for whom vaccination does offer clear benefits – are already vaccinated.

According to figures from the ONS, more than 95% of English adults aged over 50 have received both doses of the vaccine. And SARS-COV-2 will almost certainly become endemic, which means that most of us will catch it several times during our lives.  

The best we can do is vaccinate the elderly and vulnerable (check!) and accept that the disease will continue to spread in the population until it reaches an equilibrium.

Of course, young people should have the right to get vaccinated. But assuming that some have decided the benefits simply aren’t worth the risks, the Government ought to refrain from imposing even more costs on them that it already has. (I say this as someone who has had his first dose, and intends to have his second.)

Rather than trying to strong-arm every last 18 year-old into getting a vaccine they don’t need, couldn’t Britain’s remaining vaccine stockpile be put to better use?

There are still millions of elderly and vulnerable people in other countries who lack any immunity against COVID-19. Why not start donating our left-over vaccines to these countries (most of which are much poorer than the UK)?

The risk of death from COVID-19 among 70 year olds is about 300 times higher than among 20 year olds. Hence the benefit from vaccinating an additional 20 year old in Britain must be minuscule relative to the benefit of vaccinating a 70 year old in Africa, Asia or Latin America.

Having offered the vaccine to every high-risk person in Britain, isn’t it time we did something for countries with fewer resources than our own?

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