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Nurse Brenda Lotakoun draws a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at one of B'nai Brith Canada's affordable housing buildings on March 23, 2021 in Toronto.

Cole Burston/Getty Images

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.

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“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.

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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