Canada will commit to sharing up to 100 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines with the world in a formal announcement that will come later in the G7 summit, the country’s high commissioner to the United Kingdom said Friday.
Ralph Goodale’s remarks came as pressure increased on the Liberal government to clearly outline its strategy to contribute to a growing international effort to immunize the world’s population more quickly.
Earlier in the day, a government official speaking on background floated the 100 million figure to the media contingent travelling with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to the G7 — his first foreign trip since the onset of the pandemic.
The government official was unable to say how much of the planned announcement involved new money or direct vaccine contributions, and how much will be drawn from what Canada has contributed already to COVAX, the World Health Organization’s vaccine initiative.
Goodale said the details will have to wait until the end of the summit. He insisted the donation will not affect the supply of lifesaving vaccines meant for Canadians.
“Canadians shouldn’t be worried about any negative impact within Canada,” said Goodale, who indicated that details will be released in a table that compares Canada’s contribution to other G7 nations.
“The exact proportions in terms of cash contributions and in-kind contributions, that will be summarized on Sunday.”
Goodale also insisted that Canada, through COVAX, has been at the forefront of the international effort to get people in poorer countries vaccinated.
“We were quick off the mark to participate in the global effort and to be among the most generous countries in the world,” he said.
Speaking to the press at COVID-19 briefing in Ottawa, Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, said a donation on this scale won’t disrupt the domestic immunization campaign.
He said that, based on the projected delivery schedule, Canada will have enough doses to fully vaccinate every Canadian by September, even if some of the shots on order are redirected to other countries in need.
“I think we can walk and chew gum at the same time,” Njoo said. “It’s not one or the other. I think both things can happen at the same time.”
Vaccine deliveries speeding up
Between the planned Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca shipments, 55.8 million vaccine doses are expected to be delivered to Canada by the end of July. That number likely will be even higher, since Moderna has not yet confirmed its shipments for the month of July.
That’s enough product to fully vaccinate 27.9 million people with both doses, or roughly 84 per cent of the 31.9 million Canadians over the age of 12 who are eligible for a vaccine.
Joelle Paquette, the director general responsible for vaccine procurement at Public Services and Procurement Canada, said Canada has secured some 400 million doses from several suppliers, millions more than the number needed to get the population the two necessary doses.
“We are in a position where this is possible,” she said of the G7 commitment. “It will not impact our objective of fully vaccinating all Canadians.”
All countries at the G7 summit, he added, are feeling pressure to step up — not just Canada.
The United Kingdom dramatically raised the international stakes on Thursday by announcing a large-scale donation of surplus COVID-19 vaccines to countries in need.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who says he wants to see the globe fully vaccinated by the end of next year, said late Thursday Britain will donate 100 million doses by the end of the year.
Canada’s timeline is less clear.
The British announcement followed a pledge earlier this week from the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden to deliver 500 million doses.
Johnson announced the U.K.’s contribution on the eve of the G7 summit.
“I think you have to look at what the U.K. is doing overall because it is colossal,” Johnson was quoted as saying by British media during a waterfront availability.
For weeks, Johnson has been pushing G7 countries to set a goal of vaccinating the world by the end of 2022, rather than 2024 or 2025, which is the current goal of health officials.
In a recent interview with the CBC’s chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton, Johnson said Prime Minister Trudeau and the leaders of France and Germany are keen on the idea and that he has high expectations for the summit.
“We’ll be looking to come up with some big numbers, because, after all, nobody is safe until everybody is safe,” he said.
The world’s leading democracies are expected to announce they will provide at least one billion coronavirus vaccine doses to the world by the end of the G7 summit.
While Canada doesn’t produce any COVID-19 vaccines of its own, it has been criticized by a group of 32 humanitarian agencies for not sharing any doses of imported vaccines.
Last week, International Development Minister Karina Gould told a Senate committee Canada will eventually share doses, but at the moment it doesn’t have any excess because the country is still trying to get every Canadian immunized.
Canada pledges $440M to COVAX
Canada recently doubled its financial commitment to COVAX to $440 million.
The international agency has been struggling to close off an urgent gap of 200 million doses, which was created by manufacturing delays and supply disruptions coming out of India — the result of a massive outbreak in that country.
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