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WHO appoints Gordon Brown as ambassador for global health financing

Former British prime minister Gordon Brown has been named WHO ambassador for global health financing(Keystone/Salvatore Di Nolfi)

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday appointed former British prime minister Gordon Brown as ambassador for global health financing.

Brown, who served as the UK’s finance minister before succeeding Tony Blair as prime minister in 2007 until 2010, has been a strong advocate for sharing vaccines globally, leading calls at the G7 summit in June for a financing package to end Covid-19 jab shortages in the world’s poorest countries.

He said working with the WHO to bridge the Covid vaccination financing gap would be his first priority under his new role as ambassador as well as pushing for more sustained funding across global health.

“I have a tremendous personal regard for Dr Tedros with whom I first worked two decades ago,” Brown said in a statement.

“Our immediate task is to work together to finance the vaccination of the whole world and protect the poorest countries from the terrible effects of Covid-19 and other diseases.”

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, said: “I am delighted and honoured that Gordon Brown has agreed to serve as WHO Ambassador for global health financing.

“In this role, he will elevate and support WHO’s work to raise awareness internationally on the great need for sustained global health financing, particularly from G20 and G7 countries.”

Wasted jabs. His appointment comes as Brown warned on Monday that 100 million vaccines that are due to expire by the end of the year could end up being “thrown away” if global leaders do not share their vaccines with other countries in need.

“We’ve got a mountain of vaccines in America and in Europe,” he said in an interview with Sky News. Even with the booster programme and vaccines for 12 to 15-year-olds, hundreds of millions of doses could be wasted, he added.

Global vaccine summit. The stockpile figures are based on a report by research group Airfinity, which was released ahead of a global vaccine summit being hosted by US President Joe Biden on Wednesday on the margins of the UN General Assembly in New York.

Airfinity estimates the G7 and EU will have 1 billion more vaccines than they need by the end of 2021, 10 per cent of which are expected to expire this year

Brown, who also serves as United Nations special envoy for global education, called on leaders attending the summit to come up with a plan for transferring more Covid doses to lower-income countries. “Let’s get all these surplus vaccines out there, and get them used.”