The federal government says it has been assured that a new European Union export law will not affect Canada’s vaccine shipments from Europe.
On Tuesday, The New York Times reported that the bloc of countries was finalizing emergency legislation that would give it sweeping control over exports of the critical COVID-19 shots that are manufactured within its borders. The Times reported that the draft law would be made public on Wednesday.
A spokesperson for Canada’s International Trade Minister Mary Ng issued a statement to The Globe and Mail on Tuesday underscoring that the ratcheting up of export controls won’t affect the domestic vaccination campaign.
“Minister Ng’s counterparts have assured her that these measures will not affect vaccine shipments to Canada, and our government has been in constant contact with our counterparts in the EU and its member states at all levels of government,” spokesperson Youmy Han said.
She noted that Canada’s expected vaccine shipments remain on track and the country will receive 9.5 million doses by the end of March.
Canada pre-purchased millions of doses of seven different vaccine types, and Health Canada has approved four so far for the various provincial and territorial rollouts. All the drugs are fully effective in preventing serious illness and death, though some may do more than others to stop any symptomatic illness at all (which is where the efficacy rates cited below come in).
- Also known as: Comirnaty
- Approved on: Dec. 9, 2020
- Efficacy rate: 95 per cent with both doses in patients 16 and older, and 100 per cent in 12- to 15-year-olds
- Traits: Must be stored at -70 C, requiring specialized ultracold freezers. It is a new type of mRNA-based vaccine that gives the body a sample of the virus’s DNA to teach immune systems how to fight it. Health Canada has authorized it for use in people as young as 12.
- Also known as: SpikeVax
- Approved on: Dec. 23, 2020
- Efficacy rate: 94 per cent with both doses in patients 18 and older, and 100 per cent in 12- to 17-year-olds
- Traits: Like Pfizer’s vaccine, this one is mRNA-based, but it can be stored at -20 C. It’s approved for use in Canada for ages 12 and up.
- Also known as: Vaxzevria
- Approved on: Feb. 26, 2021
- Efficacy rate: 62 per cent two weeks after the second dose
- Traits: This comes in two versions approved for Canadian use, the kind made in Europe and the same drug made by a different process in India (where it is called Covishield). The National Advisory Committee on Immunization’s latest guidance is that its okay for people 30 and older to get it if they can’t or don’t want to wait for an mRNA vaccine, but to guard against the risk of a rare blood-clotting disorder, all provinces have stopped giving first doses of AstraZeneca.
- Also known as: Janssen
- Approved on: March 5, 2021
- Efficacy rate: 66 per cent two weeks after the single dose
- Traits: Unlike the other vaccines, this one comes in a single injection. NACI says it should be offered to Canadians 30 and older, but Health Canada paused distribution of the drug for now as it investigates inspection concerns at a Maryland facility where the active ingredient was made.
How many vaccine doses do I get?
All vaccines except Johnson & Johnson’s require two doses, though even for double-dose drugs, research suggests the first shots may give fairly strong protection. This has led health agencies to focus on getting first shots to as many people as possible, then delaying boosters by up to four months. To see how many doses your province or territory has administered so far, check our vaccine tracker for the latest numbers.
The late-night statement struck a different tone from one issued by Ms. Han to the Times, in which she said ”the proposed measures are concerning.”
So far, most of Canada’s vaccines are coming from European countries, and the federal Liberals are dependent on the EU keeping its borders open for vaccine exports if the country is to meet the September deadline for all eligible people to get their shots. The United States bought priority access to the first COVID-19 shots made within its borders and only last week slightly relaxed its rules granting Canada a loan of 1.5 million shots of a vaccine that isn’t yet approved in the U.S. but that the U.S. has been stockpiling.
European leaders are under immense pressure for a vaccination rollout that has faltered, despite the fact that the world’s leading vaccines are manufactured within their borders. EU countries trail Britain and the United States by a wide margin in their vaccination rates so far and most are only slightly ahead of Canada in a per capita comparison.
Against that backdrop, tensions between the EU and Britain continue to escalate as the governments argue over access to the AstraZeneca vaccine. Shots from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna also have supply chains in Europe.
Ms. Han said the federal government will continue to work with the EU and its member countries “to ensure that our essential health and medical supply chains remain open and resilient.”
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