A new poll has shown public support for sharing doses of Covid-19 vaccines with other countries as a way to prevent new variants from emerging.
Some have expressed concern that if a new vaccine-resistant variant were to develop overseas, it could derail the vaccine rollout programme in the UK.
Humanitarian group One Campaign said its poll reflected awareness of the reality that while some countries, including the UK, are making progress against the pandemic, the rest of the world “has some way to go”.
It comes as the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned of “vaccine deserts” where a dozen countries – many of them in Africa – have no doses at all.
Of the 2,273 who took part in the poll, which was jointly commissioned with charities Save the Children and Wellcome Trust – and anti-poverty movement Global Citizen, 67% agreed that it was important for the UK to share vaccines with other countries to prevent new strains emerging.
Around 64% said the vaccination rollout could be jeopardised if a new, vaccine-resistant variant develops elsewhere, while 58% agreed that it is “not fair” that richer countries have reserved more vaccines than they need.
Some 70% said leaders and politicians should work together to distribute vaccine supply fairly across the world.
Romilly Greenhill, UK director of One Campaign, said the UK has a “major opportunity” to start sharing vaccines with Covax – the UN-backed programme to ship Covid-19 vaccines worldwide – when it hosts the G7 summit next month.
She said: “The public get that sharing doses now isn’t just generous, it’s in our own interests.
“The pandemic doesn’t end with a vaccine, it ends when everyone, in every country, gets the vaccine.
“The British public clearly support the Government going much further and faster in sharing doses with other countries.”
It comes as Professor Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford University vaccine group, said vaccines need to now be focused on a global health perspective and for countries to “rethink” priorities.
He told BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that deaths in the current global wave will peak at one million towards the end of the month, based on figures from the Institute for Health Metrics in Seattle in the US.
“We are facing an absolute calamity,” he said.
“History won’t look kindly on us if a million people die this month and we haven’t acted.
“Countries that have now vaccinated the vast majority of the vulnerable need to be rethinking priorities.
“We just can’t stand by and see that level of catastrophe happen.”
Latest figures show a third of UK adults are now fully vaccinated against Covid-19, with a total of 17,669,379 people having received both jabs – the equivalent of 33.5% of all people aged 18 and over.