Editorial: Sending ventilators is useful but vaccines would be life-saving
The UK government announced on Sunday it will send another 1,000 ventilators to India, on top of the 200 ventilators, 495 oxygen concentrators and three oxygen generation units promised last week. The British people are also doing their bit: the British Asian Trust’s Oxygen for India appeal has raised more than £1.5m in the past week.
Of course, any help in India’s hour of desperate need is to be welcomed. But there is something else Boris Johnson should offer when he holds a virtual meeting with Narendra Modi, his Indian counterpart, on Tuesday. During a planned visit to India, postponed because of the country’s Covid-19 crisis, Mr Johnson originally intended to ask Mr Modi to release 5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine due to be exported to the UK. That must surely now be off-limits. However, the prime minister should go further: he should offer to send some of the UK’s vaccine supplies to India immediately.
The government has ordered more than 500 million doses of seven of the most promising vaccines for a country with a population of 67 million. True, there are still occasional disruptions to supplies. But the UK’s vaccine rollout is a huge success, and running ahead of schedule. Even if it meant a slight delay in immunising younger adults, who are at lower risk of becoming seriously ill with the virus, the UK should do what is right for the world and help India when it most needs it.