THE First Minister has written to Boris Johnson to urge the UK Government to support waiving patent protection for Covid-19 vaccines in order to help protect the world’s poorest against the devastating effects of the pandemic.

The news comes days after campaigners urged Nicola Sturgeon to tell the Tory leader that, in his opposition to waiving vaccine patents, “he is standing on the wrong side of history and Scotland will not stand alongside him”.

The low vaccination rates in poorer nations has been cited as a key reason for the emergence of more dangerous coronavirus variants. Sturgeon says in her letter that only 6.2% of people in low income countries have received at least one dose.

Rajiv Shah, the president of the Rockefeller Foundation, said that a failure to hit vaccination targets for poorer nations is “exactly why we have this dangerous new variant [Omicron], disrupting global markets and global economies and lives around the world”.

In a letter sent to the Prime Minister over the weekend, Ian Blackford echoed this, saying that the Omicron variant must be the final wakeup call that shows “until everyone is safe, no-one is safe”.

READ MORE: 'Stealth' version of Omicron variant harder to track, scientists warn

Now, Nicola Sturgeon has added her voice to the growing calls, writing: “The emergence of the new Omicron variant is a stark reminder we need the world to be vaccinated, to protect lives globally but also at home.

“A high global vaccination rate is our best protection against this pandemic. Creating the conditions for equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines is essential.”

She goes on: “I urge the UK government to end its opposition at the WTO [World Trade Organisation] and to join over 100 countries who are now supportive of a temporary TRIPS waiver.”

TRIPS is the WTO agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights which came into force in 1995.

A temporary waiver of the agreement would allow developing countries “critical access to patents, technology and know-how to enable the expansion of vaccine manufacturing and distribution”, Sturgeon writes.

The Scottish Government said such a waiver would allow nations “to prevent, contain or treat Covid-19 for a period of at least three years”.

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

When the UK has refused to back a vaccine patent waiver in the past, the Prime Minister’s spokesperson has said that he would prefer that individual countries secure low-cost commitments from vaccine suppliers, as the UK did with Astrazeneca.

However, 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. However, it said it would continue to sell vaccines at cost price to poorer nations.

Liz Murray, the head of campaigns at Global Justice Now Scotland, welcomed the letter from the First Minister making "clear that the UK does not do this in Scotland’s name".

She went on: "The UK government is becoming more and more isolated globally in its shameful refusal to back a just solution to global vaccine inequality. The First Minister’s intervention will be welcomed by all those in the global south who have been calling for this life saving measure for more than a year.

“With pressure growing on Boris Johnson to support the suspension of patents on Covid-19 vaccines, it’s time he finally put the health of people around the world before the profits of the pharmaceutical companies.”

The UK Government has been contacted for comment.