The Next In Line | Benjamin Woods
Who’s next in line? When’s it my turn? Which one did you get? The questions buzzing around the supply and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines are only set to intensify over the coming months. Of course, the priority has to be our own most vulnerable citizens first. But what happens after that?
At current rates, the UK is on course to be one of the first in the world to vaccinate its vulnerable population long before the EU. Despite the EU’s illegal threats rumbling on in the background, the outlook continues to get brighter with the announcement of yet another vaccine reporting excellent results in Stage 3 Clinical Trials; a vaccine that the UK has not only pre-ordered sixty million doses of, but one that is to be manufactured here in Teesside.
But after we have protected our own with the precious elixir of science, what should we do? Where should we turn our attention to next? We know poorer countries are being pushed to the back of the queue, but with so many crying out for the vaccine, who should we prioritise, and how?
There is a group of nations that the UK has long been the head of, though over the past 40 years of EU membership it has neglected: a group of fifty-four nations; 2.4 billion people; and half of the world’s top twenty emerging economies, bringing together both developing and developed countries alike under the leadership of Her Majesty the Queen. I talk of course about the Commonwealth.
Not only is the UK on track to vaccinate its entire adult population by the autumn, but we also have the long term supply. The UK has secured in excess of five vaccine doses per person, and should other rich Commonwealth countries contribute, there would be enough supply to make a real difference.
In the Post-Brexit world, the historical links that bind our island with all the corners of the globe are ones that the UK should and must draw on for strength and inspiration. Relighting old acquaintances, reinvigorating past friendships, rebuilding the bond of trust between our natural allies; so what better way to show the world that for the first time in 40 years it means something tangible to be in the Commonwealth?
But its more than that. While Commonwealth members include some of the world’s wealthiest, it also consists of some of the world’s poorest: Uganda and Cameroon in Africa; Brunei and Pakistan in Asia; Vanuatu and Tuvalu, in the Pacific; Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana in the Americas. They need our help.
While the autumn may seem a way off, due to the significant logistical challenges of distributing the vaccines to countries with poor infrastructure across several continents, the planning must begin in earnest. It will require a substantial collaborative effort of British and Commonwealth military personnel, in both the private sector and charities.
After we have protected our most vulnerable citizens at home, we must prioritise our most vulnerable friends across the seas; for both the British and global interests. We have an opportunity that won’t come again to show the world a global Britain, a caring Britain, a leading Britain. To reinstate and reinvigorate what it means to be a Commonwealth member. We won’t get such an opportunity again, and we must capitalise on our success.