International Development Minister Karina Gould responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons, Tuesday December 10, 2019 in Ottawa. Gould says Canada is doubling its dollar commitment to the global vaccine sharing alliance known as COVAX, but isn't yet committing to a specific donation of excess vaccine doses.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Canada doubles dollars to COVAX, but no sign of donating doses yet

Canada doubles dollars to COVAX, but no sign of donating doses yet

OTTAWA — Canada is doubling its direct cash commitment to help buy COVID-19 vaccines for the global sharing program known as COVAX but isn’t sending any actual doses this month despite a desperate plea from officials for help.

International Development Minister Karina Gould told a virtual COVAX summit hosted by Japan Wednesday that Canada will donate another $220 million to help COVAX buy more vaccines to deliver to the 92 low and middle-income countries that rely on the facility to vaccinate their citizens.

That is on top of $220 million committed last September to buy doses for lower income nations through the COVAX Advance Market Commitment, $75 million to help get those doses delivered, and $30 million reallocated to COVAX from a separate vaccine program for pneumococcal disease.

“These vaccines are our best exit strategy from this pandemic,” Gould said in a speech at the summit.

“But the world also needs access to them. Borders shouldn’t be barriers to the best and latest science.”

But borders have been a barrier, with wealthy countries snapping up more than 80 per cent of the almost two billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines now administered around the world.

Canada, which started off slowly, has vaccinated more than 22 million people, with two-thirds of eligible people over the age of 12 now receiving at least one dose.

That puts Canada in the top 10 countries for people at least partly vaccinated. When second doses are also factored in, Canada has given out 64 doses for every 100 people in the country, putting in the top 20 countries in the world for doses per capita.

More than two dozen countries, mostly in Africa, have given out fewer than one dose per 100 people. COVAX has distributed 77 million doses so far, and aims to get two billion delivered by the end of the year.

But it said last week its first goal in June will fall 190 million doses short without immediate help from wealthy countries who are way ahead of the world on vaccinations. The results of that shortfall “could be catastrophic,” COVAX leaders said in a statement May 27.

India’s Serum Institute was to be one of the major suppliers of COVAX but because of the massive third wave in India this spring, the country has banned further export of doses for any reason until at least the end of the year.

“Countries with the largest supplies should redirect doses to COVAX now, to have maximum impact,” COVAX said.

COVAX was looking for another $2 billion in donations and the promise of actual doses. It got the money, but only a few additional promises of donations of vaccines.

To date there about 200 million doses on the table, half from the European Union, but it’s not clear when they’ll be distributed.

The United States intends to donate 80 million doses by the end of this month, but hasn’t said yet if they’ll go through COVAX or to other countries directly.

Canada has 28 million doses delivered so far and expects at least 100 million by the fall, far more than it needs to give two doses to all 38 million Canadians.

Gould was appointed in January as a co-chair of the COVAX engagement group trying to help create a mechanism to allow for doses to be donated and some of Canada’s funding has helped establish that. But she said Canada isn’t yet in a position to put actual doses on the table.

“We do not have excess vaccines currently coming to Canada,” she said.

“At this point in time we’re still very much focused on our domestic schedule but I can assure you that when we do have excess doses, we will be making that announcement.”

That is not good enough for the government’s critics.

“Canada’s position has been a gross disappointment,” said NDP health critic Don Davies. “It’s wrong from a moral and ethical point of view and its counter to our own public health needs.”

The more COVID-19 spreads, the higher the risk of new variants of concern which may evade the vaccinations we are giving out now. Experts have said vaccinating the world equitably, to help slow the spread globally, is the only way the pandemic will end.

Green party Leader Annamie Paul said COVAX has been very clear about what it needs and said Canada is creating a “false security” by only focusing on getting doses to Canadians at first.

COVAX is one of three arms of the ACT Accelerator, a global program to make sure the entire world has access to COVID-19 testing, treatments and vaccines.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced last month Canada would increase its overall support to the ACT Accelerator by $375 million to a total of more than $1.3 billion. Today’s $220 million donation to COVAX comes from that May pledge, which the international anti-poverty group Global Citizen said put Canada among a small group of countries donating an amount on par with the size of their economy.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 2, 2021.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

Coronavirus

Just Posted

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney arrives at the 2021 budget in Edmonton on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta launches COVID vaccine lottery with million-dollar prizes to encourage uptake

The premier says the lottery will offer three prizes worth $1 million a piece, as well as other prizes

Dharmesh Goradia, and his daughter Vidhi and wife Chaitali, at the 2017 festival for the Godess Durga, held at the Golden Circle. (Photo contributed)
Draft curriculum misses the mark for central Alberta Hindu society

Meeting scheduled with Alberta Education officials

Air Canada planes sit on the tarmac at Pearson International Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. Air Canada says it will recall more than 2,600 employees who were furloughed during the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Alberta’s tourism sector hurt by COVID-19 pandemic: ATB Financial

Between border closures, public health measures and hesitancy to travel, Alberta’s tourism… Continue reading

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

A man wears a face mask as he walks by a sign for a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Sunday, May 16, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Canada paid a premium to get doses from Pfizer earlier than planned

OTTAWA — Canada paid a premium to get more than 250,000 doses… Continue reading

The Kamloops Indian Residential School in Kamloops, B.C., is shown in this 1930 handout photo. HO — Deschatelets-NDC Archives
Calls grow for Ottawa to review settlement decisions for residential school survivors

Lawyer Teri Lynn Bougie still cries when she talks about the final… Continue reading

Syringes are readied at a COVID-19 mobile vaccination clinic for members of First Nations and their partners, Friday, April 30, 2021 in Montreal. Most of the federal contracts for COVID-19 vaccines allow for Canada to donate some of its doses to other countries or international aid organizations and in at least three cases, for the doses to be resold.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada’s vaccine contracts allow for doses to be donated, in some cases resold

OTTAWA — Most of the federal contracts for COVID-19 vaccines allow for… Continue reading

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, responds to the report on the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, in Vancouver, on Monday June 3, 2019. As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after the Tk'emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced it had located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he feels a connection with the former students. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Two sides of the same coin: Ex-foster kids identify with residential school survivors

VANCOUVER — As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after… Continue reading

A woman sits and weeps at the scene of Sunday's hate-motivated vehicle attack in London, Ont. on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. Four members of a family in London, Ont., are set to be buried today. The public has been invited to help celebrate the lives of Talat Afzaal, 74, her son Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha Salman, 44, and their 15-year-old daughter Yumna Salman.THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Geoff Robins
Funeral to be held today for London family killed in attack

LONDON, Ont. — Four members of a Muslim family killed in what… Continue reading

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden listen to United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson deliver opening remarks at a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, United Kingdom Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau to discuss foreign policy with G7 leaders at second day of summit meeting

CARBIS BAY, CORNWALL, ENGLAND — Foreign policy is on the agenda for… Continue reading

Most Read