Speaking to Byline’s Peter Jukes and Hardeep Matharu on Friday’s live show, Professor Ashton cited statistics that show that during the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, Britain accounted for less than one percent of deaths worldwide. In 2020 and 2021, the UK accounts for three percent of Coronavirus deaths worldwide, a staggering increase.
“The world population outside the UK is much bigger now, so that understates how badly we’ve done,” Professor Ashton said, “in an age when we’re so proud of our science, but we’ve neglected the basics of local public health teams, identifying where the infection is, going and rooting it out, isolating and quarantine and testing”.
He also warned that the vaccine may not be the get out of jail free card many of us have been hoping for. “We don’t know what’s coming down the track with the vaccine, there’s a lot of argy-bargy about the supply chain now” he said, referencing problems with manufacturing enough vaccines in Europe, “as the WHO keeps saying now, nobody is safe until everybody is safe. We have to take on board solidarity with poor countries, not just because we’re being philanthropic but because it’s enlightened self interest.”
According to the professor, if poor countries are not able to get vaccinated as higher income countries hoard the entire supply of vaccines as they are produced, the chances of new, vaccine resistant strains emerging in those countries are high enough to be a cause for concern. “It’s enlightened self interest, otherwise mutations will happen more and more in poor countries, then they’ll come here in a challenge whatever vaccines we’ve got.”
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