President Donald Trump listens to a reporter's question in the Oval Office of the White House on Dec. 7, 2020, in Washington. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Patrick Semansky

Trump signs order to put Americans at head of vaccine line, vows to work with world

Trump signs order to put Americans at head of vaccine line, vows to work with world

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The United States will “work with the world” to distribute COVID-19 vaccines, President Donald Trump vowed Tuesday, even as he signed an order aimed at putting Americans at the head of the line.

In virtually the same breath, Trump delivered two diametrically opposed promises: to ensure U.S. citizens are first to reap the benefits of the country’s effort to develop vaccines, but also to ensure other countries receive them as well.

“We’re working very closely with other nations, to get the vaccines out to other nations; we’re working with the world,” Trump said.

With that, he signed an executive order “to ensure that American citizens have first priority to receive American vaccines,” adding that the U.S. would begin working with other countries “almost immediately.”

Ironically, it was the U.K. that became the first Western country Tuesday to administer a fully tested COVID-19 vaccine outside a clinical setting, doling out the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine after British regulators approved it last week.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has offered a glowing assessment of the vaccine, saying it provides rapid, strong protection after the first of two doses and works well regardless of age, weight or ethnicity. U.S.-based Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech have already reported an efficacy rate of about 95 per cent after two shots.

There are also plenty more vaccines still in development, said Trump, promising they would “end the pandemic. The famously spotlight-hungry president might be keen to see the fruits of his development plan — dubbed “Operation Warp Speed” — deployed promptly beyond U.S. borders.

It wasn’t abundantly clear how sharp-edged Trump’s executive order would prove to be.

“We must ensure that Americans have priority access to COVID-19 vaccines developed in the United States or procured by the U.S. government,” it reads.

“After ensuring the ability to meet the vaccination needs of the American people, it is in the interest of the United States to facilitate international access to U.S. government COVID-19 vaccines.”

The order also requires national security officials to co-ordinate an interagency strategy for the implementation of international access to the vaccines within 30 days, provided a “sufficient supply” exists “for all Americans who choose to be vaccinated.”

Dr. Raywat Deonandan, an epidemiologist and health sciences professor at the University of Ottawa, said limiting vaccine deployment around the world would have broader consequences beyond just the pace of immunization.

“No one is safe until everybody is safe,” Deonandan said in an interview.

“Until the epidemic is stamped out in the darkest corners of Bangladesh, it is not over for everybody … so the argument can be made that it is not an advantageous position for anybody to be advocating for one population to get it before another.”

Trump was under fresh political pressure following reports the White House passed up a chance to secure 500 million extra doses of Pfizer’s vaccine. But that pressure didn’t seem to spawn much fresh protectionist rhetoric.

North of the border, federal officials greeted the prospect of Trump’s order with a collective yawn.

“We’re very confident that Pfizer and other vaccine manufacturers that are contractually obligated to deliver vaccines to Canada will be able to meet those obligations,” said Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc.

“We have already assumed that we shouldn’t be tied to one particular manufacturing site, so the contracts contemplate that. Pfizer, for example, has many manufacturing facilities in Europe as well as the United States.”

It wouldn’t be the first time Trump has tried to deny medical resources to Canada as part of his “America First” doctrine.

In April, he tried to prevent U.S.-based 3M from honouring contacts with Canadian buyers of American-made N95 masks, vital in limiting the spread of the virus. The Minnesota company pushed back, eventually brokering a solution that involved using masks manufactured overseas to meet unprecedented U.S. demand.

Earlier this month, a Trump order authorizing states, pharmacies and wholesalers to import cheaper prescription drugs from Canada, part of his plan to tackle staggering drug costs in the U.S., went into effect.

But it was pre-emptively blocked by the federal Liberal government, which implemented a rule prohibiting the export of drugs meant for the domestic Canadian market that are either already in short supply or at risk of becoming scarce.

Dr. Jacalyn Duffin, a professor of medical history at Queen’s University who writes a blog about Canada’s chronic drug shortage problem, said the Trump administration has a clear track record of focusing on its own priorities.

“It just breaks my heart that there isn’t solidarity out there in the United States … it’s just being so selfish when it comes to the products that could help,” Duffin said.

“We’re all going to be going through the social distancing, the isolating and the mask-wearing for a long, long time, even when the vaccines make it to our shores.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 8, 2020.

James McCarten, The Canadian Press

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

City of Red Deer says its roundabouts have sharply reduced the number of injury collisions at a pair of busy intersections. Alberta Transportation wants to incorporate five roundabouts into plans to twin Highway 11 from Sylvan Lake to Rocky Mountain House. Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
Highway 11 roundabouts will increase safety based on Red Deer’s experience

Injury collisions sharply reduced at roundabout intersections in city

As of Friday, Alberta has under 10,000 active COVID-19 cases. (Image courtesy CDC)
One new COVID-19 death in Red Deer, Alberta under 10,000 active cases

Alberta reported an additional 643 COVID-19 cases Friday. The province now has… Continue reading

About 110 students from Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools participated in March for Life rally in Edmonton May 9. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Red Deer high school has COVID-19 case

St. Joseph High School in Red Deer confirmed a positive COVID-19 case… Continue reading

Lacombe High School logo.
Two more COVID-19 cases at Lacombe Composite High School

Lacombe Composite High School confirmed two more positive COVID-19 cases at the… Continue reading

World Juniors’ referee Mike Langin makes a called during the Canada vs. Slovakia at the 2021 World Junior Championship at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Dec. 27, 2020. (Photo by Matthew Murnaghan/Hockey Canada)
Former Sylvan Lake man lives his dream at World Junior Championships

Mike Langin was one the 25 Canadian officials who worked during the tournament

Former Alberta Premier Rachel Notley shakes hands with Joel Ward, former Red Deer College President and CEO, as Notley announces that the college is on the path to grant degrees. Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan says university status is not a necessary condition for offering degrees. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Future of Red Deer University increasingly uncertain

MLA’s college update says RDC more like SAIT and NAIT than a university

There are two confirmed COVID-19 cases at Red Deer College. Photo by Mamta Lulla/Advocate staff
Central Albertans were promised a university

Central Albertans were promised a university

FILE - Baseball Hall of Famer Hank Aaron sits for a portrait after receiving his COVID-19 vaccination at the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, in this Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021, file photo. Hank Aaron, who endured racist threats with stoic dignity during his pursuit of Babe Ruth but went on to break the career home run record in the pre-steroids era, died early Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. He was 86. The Atlanta Braves said Aaron died peacefully in his sleep. No cause of death was given. (AP Photo/Ron Harris, File)
Hank Aaron, baseball’s one-time home run king, dies at 86

Hank Aaron, baseball’s one-time home run king, dies at 86

Miami Heat guard Duncan Robinson (55) passes the ball around Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet (23) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 22, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Powell, Raptors regroup after blowing lead, beat Heat 101-81

Powell, Raptors regroup after blowing lead, beat Heat 101-81

Tavares scores winner on power play, Leafs beat Oilers 4-2

Tavares scores winner on power play, Leafs beat Oilers 4-2

David Shoemaker, chief executive officer of the Canadian Olympic Committee, speaks during the Olympic Partnership kick off event at the Sobey's office in Mississauga, Ont. on Monday, October 7, 2019. Shoemaker says the IOC remains committed to staging the Summer Games in Tokyo this summer.THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin
Canada’s Olympic athletes try to tune out reports six months from Games

Canada’s Olympic athletes try to tune out reports six months from Games

Toronto FC captain Michael Bradley lifts the Voyageurs Cup after beating Vancouver Whitecaps 5-2 to win the Canadian Championship Final in Toronto on Wednesday, August 15, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Forge FC-Toronto FC Canadian Championship final to be played before April 6

Forge FC-Toronto FC Canadian Championship final to be played before April 6

Canada's Penny Oleksiak reacts after her heat of the women's 50m butterfly at the World Swimming Championships in Gwangju, South Korea, Friday, July 26, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Lee Jin-man
Penny Oleksiak, Kylie Masse among six swimmers named early to Canadian Olympic team

Penny Oleksiak, Kylie Masse among six swimmers named early to Canadian Olympic team

Ontario skip Glenn Howard watches a rock as they play Newfoundland and Labrador in draw 15 action at the Tim Hortons Brier curling championship at Mile One Centre in St. John's on Thursday, March 9, 2017. Curling Canada has decided to use the national ranking system as its selection criteria for the final wild-card berths at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts and Tim Hortons Brier.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Canadian rankings to be used to determine final wild-card spots at Scotties and Brier

Canadian rankings to be used to determine final wild-card spots at Scotties and Brier

Most Read