Canada has joined a global effort designed to help deliver equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines in a move that stands in contrast with a decision taken by the United States not to join.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Friday that the federal government will spend approximately $220-million on the COVAX Facility to procure up to 15 million vaccine doses for Canadians.
An additional $220-million is being earmarked to purchase doses for low- and middle-income countries, the government said, adding that Canada cannot beat the pandemic unless it is addressed everywhere.
The hunt for a vaccine to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Canada is a major preoccupation for the federal government, particularly because officials are concerned about the resurgence of the virus in Quebec, Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta.
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned Canada is at a crossroads and a second wave of the pandemic is already under way in the four biggest provinces. He said figures support this fact; there were 47 new cases when the country went into lockdown in March but more than 1,000 on Tuesday alone.
“We’re on the brink of a fall that could be much worse than the spring,” he said in an address to the country following the Throne Speech on Wednesday.
Canadians must have access to a safe and effective vaccine against COVID-19 no matter where it is developed, the Prime Minister added on Friday.
Earlier this month, the United States said it would not join the COVAX Facility. The World Health Organization (WHO) said more than 170 economies are engaged in discussions to potentially participate in the global initiative.
COVAX is co-led by Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the WHO. Its goal is to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for all countries.
“Unfortunately, there are a few large countries that have decided not to participate,” Mr. Trudeau said.
“But I can assure you the number of countries that have stepped up and participated like Canada is ensuring that we are going a long way towards having vaccines accessible for the most vulnerable around the world, which is essential.”
Mr. Trudeau also announced Friday a new vaccine agreement has been reached, bringing the total number of agreements for Canada to six.
Procurement Minister Anita Anand said by supporting the COVAX Facility that Canada is continuing to diversify its investment in a potential supply and it is committing to assist low-income countries.
Mr. Trudeau said an agreement has been reached with AstraZeneca to procure up to 20 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate.
The government said Friday the new agreement adds to those already reached with Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Novavax, Pfizer and Moderna.
Mr. Trudeau said the best way to end the COVID-19 pandemic and to keep Canadians healthy is through a safe and effective vaccine.
At present, there are no vaccines that have been approved to prevent COVID-19 in Canada. Health Canada will review evidence of safety, efficacy and manufacturing quality for each vaccine to determine whether they will be approved for use and made available to Canadians.
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