She warned Britain is also at risk of forfeiting its place as an international leader. “The Foreign Office and Department for International Development used to be so respected and revered. But all of that seems to have dwindled away.”
Dr Alakija added that she has been “disappointed” by a lack of global solidarity around vaccine distribution worldwide, and warned “wealthy countries are playing politics with the lives of millions of people”.
“There’s no true thought, no true strategy, and no true humanity behind any of this,” she warned. “It’s so ad hoc.”
‘A logistical nightmare’
Where vaccines have been donated, she said, many are nearing their expiry dates. For instance, the bulk of nine million shots promised by the UK at the very end of July had to be used by late September – and many only arrived in countries in late August.
“It’s a logistical nightmare,” said Dr Alakija. “Vaccines are arriving, and [authorities are] having to rush them out to places without advance notice”. She added that it remains unclear when, or if, countries will see enough supply down the line to provide second doses.
The UK announced it was starting a booster campaign on Tuesday, with all those over 50 to receive a third shot of vaccine six months after their second dose.
Jonathan Van Tam, deputy chief medical officer for England, said the fact that nine other countries had already launched booster campaigns and 18 others were considering them justified the UK’s decision when others around the world were waiting for their first jab.
“We are not alone,” he said.