War zones around the world should temporarily pause fighting to allow coronavirus vaccine programmes to expand in some of the world’s most vulnerable countries, the UK government has said.
Foreign secretary Dominic Raab will lead the call for local ceasefires at a meeting of the UN Security Council on Wednesday.
He is expected to warn that allowing Covid-19 to spread in areas without a vaccination roll-out will increase the risk of new variants taking hold.
Raab will urge members of the council to agree a resolution for negotiated vaccine ceasefires and help to ensure the most vulnerable people can access jabs.
The Foreign Office said more than 160 million people around the world are at risk of being excluded from vaccines because of instability and conflict, in countries including Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and Ethiopia.
Ahead of the Security Council meeting, Raab said: “Global vaccination coverage is essential to beating coronavirus.
“That is why the UK is calling for a vaccination ceasefire to allow Covid-19 vaccines to reach people living in conflict zones and for a greater global team effort to deliver equitable access.
“We have a moral duty to act, and a strategic necessity to come together to defeat this virus.”
Ceasefires have been used to vaccinate vulnerable people in war-torn countries in the past, including in Afghanistan, where a two-day pause in fighting in 2001 enabled the vaccination of 5.7 million children under five against polio.