WAIVING patents on coronavirus vaccines and technology would be the “morally right step” to help poorer countries tackle the pandemic, SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford has said.

He said the vaccine disparity between rich and poor countries increases the risk of more mutant variants emerging, harming the global effort against Covid-19.

In a plea to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Blackford said giving up intellectual property rights on patented vaccines and the technology to produce them would help less-developed countries respond to the pandemic.

Figures released in December indicated that only 6.2% of people in low-income countries had received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine. At the same time in the UK, 81% of over-12s had received two doses.

READ MORE: End UK opposition to vaccine patent waivers, Nicola Sturgeon tells Boris Johnson

Blackford said: “The inequality and imbalance of vaccine production and administration should be a mark of stain for richer countries.

“While richer countries vaccinate their citizens, those in poorer and developing countries are being left behind – harming our efforts to properly tackle the health crisis.

“The pandemic does not recognise borders or people – it does not discriminate when it infects. The fact is that the only way to deal with this pandemic and Covid variants is through a strengthened global approach.

“As we head into the new year, the UK Government must learn the mistakes of the past year and take the morally right step and waive intellectual property rights to vaccine patents.

“Temporarily suspending patent rights covering Covid-19 related technology, particularly vaccines, will help ramp up vaccine access in developing countries and help the fight against Covid.

“The reality is that we will not defeat this virus if we are not all on the same team. The UK Government must get off the sidelines and lead on vaccine equality and stop blocking the waiver to support access to vaccines around the world.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon previously wrote to the Prime Minister asking him to agree to a Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (Trips) agreement waiver for Covid-19 health technologies that would allow governments to waive rights protections held by pharmaceutical companies for all health products and technologies needed to prevent, contain or treat Covid-19 for a period of at least three years.

Sturgeon said: “By waiving patent protection for Covid-19 vaccines, countries will be able to make full use of the manufacturing capacity that is available globally.

“Ensuring equitable access to vaccine supplies is essential to ensuring as many people as possible are protected, as quickly as possible.

“The exceptional circumstances presented by the Covid-19 pandemic call for all available measures to be used in order to end this crisis.”

A UK Government spokesperson said the country has been “a world leader in ensuring developing countries can access vaccines, through our investment in Oxford-AstraZeneca, early support to the Covax scheme and commitment to donate surplus vaccines”.

READ MORE: US stand on waiving virus vaccine patents is no ‘magic bullet’, says EU

“We are on track to meet our goal of donating 30 million doses by the end of this year, and more next year. We have donated 23 million doses already, of which 18.5 million have gone to Covax to distribute to developing countries,” the spokesman added.

“The UK is engaging constructively in the Trips waiver debate at the World Trade Organisation, and we continue to be open to all ideas that have a positive impact on vaccine production and distribution.”

At least 97% of the funding used to create Astrazeneca’s Covid vaccine came from the public purse or charitable trusts, according to a study from Universities Allied for Essential Medicines UK.

Regardless, Astrazeneca recently announced plans to begin selling that vaccine for a profit - despite having previously pledged not to for as long as Covid-19 remained a pandemic. The firm said it would continue to sell vaccines at cost price to poorer nations.