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

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 will donate another $220 million to the 92 low and mid-income countries that rely on program

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.

—Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

RELATED: Pfizer-BioNTech pledge 2B doses to poor nations

CoronavirusFederal Politicsvaccines

Just Posted

Steve Mann and Tim Hackett consider Marigold Lands their finest development. (Rendering courtesy Marigold Lands)
Marigold residences grow more townhouses and condos in Central Saanich

50 condos, 14 townhouses up next for project adjacent to Pat Bay Highway

Norman Mogensen sets up strings for his beans in his plot in the Oak Bay community gardens. (Christine van Reeuwyk/News Staff)
Oak Bay gardener spends decades cultivating, improving daddy’s beans

85-year-old vegan part of the community gardens scene

The Pool at the Esquimalt Rec Centre. (Courtesy of theTownship of Esquimalt/ Facebook)
Esquimalt Rec Centre restarting everyone welcome swim times later this month

The 90-minute sessions will be on select evenings and weekends

Diana Durrand and Arlene Nesbitt celebrate the new artist space in 2014. Gage Gallery moves this summer from Oak Bay to Bastion Square in Victoria. (Black Press Media file photo)
Gage Gallery moving to Bastion Square

Vivid Connections, a showcase by Laura Feeleus and Elizabeth Carefoot, opens new venue June 29

Theatre SKAM is offering mobile, pop-up performances to Greater Victoria residents once again this summer. They’ll feature emerging artists Yasmin D’Oshun, Courtney Crawford, Kaelan Bain and Kendra Bidwell (left to right). (Courtesy of Theatre SKAM)
Theatre performances can be ordered to Greater Victoria front yards this summer

Theatre SKAM offering mobile, pop-up performances once again

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

A North Vancouver man was arrested Friday and three police officers were injured after a 10-person broke out at English Bay on June 19, 2021. (Youtube/Screen grab)
Man arrested, 3 police injured during 10-person brawl at Vancouver beach

The arrest was captured on video by bystanders, many of whom heckled the officers as they struggled with the handcuffed man

Patrick O’Brien, a 75-year-old fisherman, went missing near Port Angeles Thursday evening. (Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard)
Search for lost fisherman near Victoria suspended, U.S. Coast Guard says

The 75-year-old man was reported missing Thursday evening

Most Read