Canada will share 100 million COVID-19 vaccines with nations in need

Canada will contribute 100 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to low-income countries through financial assistance and excluding future deliveries. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is set to make the announcement at the end of the G7 leaders’ meeting in Cornwall, England, on Sunday.

“It will be some cash and some sort of combination,” said Ralph Goodell, Canada’s High Commissioner to the UK, adding that Canada’s global numbers are up to 100 million. And we believe that even after all countries have given their share, it is still not enough. More will be needed going forward but this is a starting point.”

The announcement will be part of a pledge by G7 leaders to supply at least one billion doses to other countries in total. Most of the G7’s contributions, including from Canada, will go to COVAX, a coalition co-led by the World Health Organization working to ensure equitable access to vaccines.

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Ottawa has ordered 252.9 million doses of the vaccine, enough to more than triple every Canadian vaccinated, and the government had come under pressure to share some of that supply with poor countries.

So far, every G7 country except Canada has committed to donate a specific number of doses to COVAX and other countries, including the United States and Britain, have pledged to give a total of 600 million.

The US plans to purchase 500 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at non-profit prices, and donate the majority of it to COVAX, with the remainder going to selected countries over the next year. The UK will contribute 100 million doses to COVAX starting in September, which the country has ordered but no longer required.

Canada’s contribution to the G7’s one billion-dose pledge is expected to add to the money the government has already committed to COVAX. This includes $545 million to help COVAX buy vaccines for low- and middle-income countries. Canada is also expected to drop future deliveries similar to what the UK plans.

For example, Canada has ordered 52 million doses of the Novavax vaccine, which has not yet been approved by Health Canada. A source familiar with the announcement said those doses could be sent to COVAX instead.

The pledge is not expected to affect the rollout of Canada’s vaccination program, which has gained momentum in recent weeks. According to the U.S. Vaccine Tracking, the government is prepared to supply enough to give two doses to all eligible Canadians by August.

The G7 commitment to vaccine donation has been welcomed by the WHO and other international development organisations, but several groups have said it is far short of what is needed.

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“If the best G7 leaders can donate a billion vaccine doses, this summit will fail,” said Oxfam’s health policy manager, Anna Marriott. She and others have reported that it would take about 11 billion doses to vaccinate everyone.

Oxfam and other organizations have also called on the G7 to waive patent protection rules and commit to sharing technology to help boost vaccine manufacturing. US President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron have supported easing intellectual property rules, but Canada and other G7 countries have been less enthusiastic. They have argued that the biggest barriers to vaccine production are export regulations and transfer of technology.

“This is a topic that I have not yet had the opportunity to discuss with the Prime Minister,” Mr Goodley said on Friday.

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