Is Canada really donating 100M doses of COVID-19 vaccines to poor countries? Justin Trudeau’s critics say no

OTTAWA — Justin Trudeau’s pledge to donate 100 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to developing countries amounts to a lot less than meets the eye, opposition critics charged Monday.What first sounded like a generous set-aside of about a quarter of the total portfolio of roughly 400 million doses that Canada pre-purchased turns out to be a “disingenuous” promise to provide doses Canada does not have in hand, or hasn’t approved, or will decline to take from the global sharing program COVAX that Ottawa never should have dipped into in the first place, said New Democrat MP Don Davies.On Friday, the prime minister said Canada will provide 100 million doses to low- and middle-income countries as part of the G7 effort to provide one billion doses through global sharing programs.But it turns out Canada’s pledge is actually to provide 13 million “surplus” doses — which Canadian officials say will be comprised of AstraZeneca (which Canada is having difficulty bringing in), Novavax (which Canada hasn’t authorized for distribution here), and Johnson & Johnson (whose supply to Canada has been suspended for quality control issues).Canada has already said it would contribute $527 million to COVAX, the global vaccine sharing facility, said International Development Minister Karina Gould’s office. The U.K. hosts of the G7 summit calculated Canada’s contribution would allow for the purchase of 87 million vaccine doses for poorer countries.“I think it’s misleading,” said Davies in an interview.Davies said the government is trying to make Canada look generous on the world stage, and to respond to what he says is a “very real public health requirement” to ensure the world population gets vaccinated.“It’s not just a question of ethics, it’s a question of self-preservation,” he said. “But then it starts to fall apart like a house of cards.”Davies said of Canada’s pledge to supply 13 million “surplus” doses, seven million of the AstraZeneca doses “aren’t even real yet.“Of the remaining six million, most of those are doses that we were going to get from COVAX that frankly we never should have gotten,” Davies said“So the net result is, what are we donating? Keep the doses that we never should have taken? It’s a far cry from the 100 million doses that I think the government is trying to spin Canadians into believing.”Gould says Canada is committed to no longer use any of its COVAX doses for its own population, and will free up more doses for donation as officials decide they’re not needed for Canadians.“We’ve tried to be very careful in terms of making sure that once we know what’s excess, we can donate them,” she told the Star’s Alex Boyd, adding that the vaccine rollout here will not be affected.Conservative health critic Michelle Rempel-Garner blamed Trudeau for failing to provide the leadership that Canada and the world needs on vaccine deliveries.“It’s imperative that the world have equitable access to vaccines and Canada has a significant role to play in this endeavour,” she told the Star.“Unfortunately, Trudeau’s failure to effectively procure and domestically produce vaccines put Canada months behind peer countries in vaccinating our own citizens, and hurt Canada’s ability to help others.”Gould spoke of the “moral imperative” of helping other countries, but also acknowledged that “there’s also a self interest that, as Canadians, we’re only really going to be safe once the whole world is safe.”Davies tried in vain to get clarity from top government officials who appeared at a parliamentary health committee Monday but could not explain the breakdown of where Canada’s donated vaccines are actually coming from.Iain Stewart, president of the Public Health Agency of Canada, resorted to touting only the “promising” benefits of Novavax — a vaccine that Canada hopes will one day be produced at a new National Research Council facility being built in Montreal — adding that “over time” people across the world will need to be vaccinated, “some right away and others over the coming months as well.”Novavax reported results Monday from a phase 3 clinical trial study in the U.S. and Mexico that said its COVID-19 vaccine showed 90.4 per cent efficacy in preventing symptomatic infection, and it claimed 100 per cent “protection against moderate and severe disease.”It previously reported similar efficacy after a U.K. trial, and said its vaccine showed efficacy against both the rapidly emerging U.K. and South Africa variants.Health Canada said Monday it has not received or reviewed the latest data. The company has indicated that it expects to submit the phase three trial results from the U.S. study for review in early August. Health Canada is also waiting for the submission of significant information about manufacturing, said spokesperson Anna Maddison.Canada has contracted to purchase up to 52 million doses of the Novavax vaccine, which has not yet been authorized by Health Canada for distribution here. The federal government and the National Re

Is Canada really donating 100M doses of COVID-19 vaccines to poor countries? Justin Trudeau’s critics say no

OTTAWA — Justin Trudeau’s pledge to donate 100 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to developing countries amounts to a lot less than meets the eye, opposition critics charged Monday.

What first sounded like a generous set-aside of about a quarter of the total portfolio of roughly 400 million doses that Canada pre-purchased turns out to be a “disingenuous” promise to provide doses Canada does not have in hand, or hasn’t approved, or will decline to take from the global sharing program COVAX that Ottawa never should have dipped into in the first place, said New Democrat MP Don Davies.

On Friday, the prime minister said Canada will provide 100 million doses to low- and middle-income countries as part of the G7 effort to provide one billion doses through global sharing programs.

But it turns out Canada’s pledge is actually to provide 13 million “surplus” doses — which Canadian officials say will be comprised of AstraZeneca (which Canada is having difficulty bringing in), Novavax (which Canada hasn’t authorized for distribution here), and Johnson & Johnson (whose supply to Canada has been suspended for quality control issues).

Canada has already said it would contribute $527 million to COVAX, the global vaccine sharing facility, said International Development Minister Karina Gould’s office. The U.K. hosts of the G7 summit calculated Canada’s contribution would allow for the purchase of 87 million vaccine doses for poorer countries.

“I think it’s misleading,” said Davies in an interview.

Davies said the government is trying to make Canada look generous on the world stage, and to respond to what he says is a “very real public health requirement” to ensure the world population gets vaccinated.

“It’s not just a question of ethics, it’s a question of self-preservation,” he said. “But then it starts to fall apart like a house of cards.”

Davies said of Canada’s pledge to supply 13 million “surplus” doses, seven million of the AstraZeneca doses “aren’t even real yet.

“Of the remaining six million, most of those are doses that we were going to get from COVAX that frankly we never should have gotten,” Davies said

“So the net result is, what are we donating? Keep the doses that we never should have taken? It’s a far cry from the 100 million doses that I think the government is trying to spin Canadians into believing.”

Gould says Canada is committed to no longer use any of its COVAX doses for its own population, and will free up more doses for donation as officials decide they’re not needed for Canadians.

“We’ve tried to be very careful in terms of making sure that once we know what’s excess, we can donate them,” she told the Star’s Alex Boyd, adding that the vaccine rollout here will not be affected.

Conservative health critic Michelle Rempel-Garner blamed Trudeau for failing to provide the leadership that Canada and the world needs on vaccine deliveries.

“It’s imperative that the world have equitable access to vaccines and Canada has a significant role to play in this endeavour,” she told the Star.

“Unfortunately, Trudeau’s failure to effectively procure and domestically produce vaccines put Canada months behind peer countries in vaccinating our own citizens, and hurt Canada’s ability to help others.”

Gould spoke of the “moral imperative” of helping other countries, but also acknowledged that “there’s also a self interest that, as Canadians, we’re only really going to be safe once the whole world is safe.”

Davies tried in vain to get clarity from top government officials who appeared at a parliamentary health committee Monday but could not explain the breakdown of where Canada’s donated vaccines are actually coming from.

Iain Stewart, president of the Public Health Agency of Canada, resorted to touting only the “promising” benefits of Novavax — a vaccine that Canada hopes will one day be produced at a new National Research Council facility being built in Montreal — adding that “over time” people across the world will need to be vaccinated, “some right away and others over the coming months as well.”

Novavax reported results Monday from a phase 3 clinical trial study in the U.S. and Mexico that said its COVID-19 vaccine showed 90.4 per cent efficacy in preventing symptomatic infection, and it claimed 100 per cent “protection against moderate and severe disease.”

It previously reported similar efficacy after a U.K. trial, and said its vaccine showed efficacy against both the rapidly emerging U.K. and South Africa variants.

Health Canada said Monday it has not received or reviewed the latest data. The company has indicated that it expects to submit the phase three trial results from the U.S. study for review in early August. Health Canada is also waiting for the submission of significant information about manufacturing, said spokesperson Anna Maddison.

Canada has contracted to purchase up to 52 million doses of the Novavax vaccine, which has not yet been authorized by Health Canada for distribution here. The federal government and the National Research Council could not provide an updated timeline for when the company might be in a position to begin production in Montreal at a NRC facility that’s now under construction. Previously it was suggested production could begin by the end of 2021.

According to federal numbers, Canada has administered 29.2 million doses of vaccine to date. Of those eligible to receive a vaccine — anyone aged 12 and older — nearly 61 per cent are partially vaccinated, and more than nine per cent are fully vaccinated with two doses. (Nobody has yet received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is the only single-dose vaccine approved for use in Canada.)

Canada doesn’t actually have any “surplus doses” at the moment. In fact, federal officials said Monday that the timeline to fully vaccinate Canadians — by end of September — hasn’t changed, even though Ottawa says about 50 million doses will have arrived by the end of July.

Although the Liberal government continues to boast of its shrewd choices for its “diverse vaccine portfolio,” Dr. Shirin Kalyan, a professor of medicine at the University of British Columbia, told the health committee Canada should have broadened that portfolio.

She said the government should not only put its faith in the vaccines that use different platforms to delivery genetic coding for the coronavirus spike protein, but should also look to foster development of whole vaccines that use either live attenuated virus or inactivated virus. Kalyan offered her opinion that such vaccines are key in the overall battle.

While whole vaccines take longer to develop, and are not as enticing to big pharma companies to invest in, they provide “the right exercise for your immune system overall,” she said, because they prompt a broader and longer lasting response and are “theoretically not subject to loss of efficacy that aid in variants selection.”

Additionally, while Kalyan said the mRNA vaccines are a “cool” new technology, “we have very little to no knowledge on the long term safety or efficacy on many aspects of this technology especially when given in multiple doses,” and so it is “very difficult to make well-informed decisions regarding their use.

“Given the above, why are all the options Canadians currently have in our tool box for immune protection in midst of a pandemic all based on a technology with which we have the least experience and which have never been approved outside use of emergency use authorization?” she asked.

Kalyan called for “diverse access” to different kinds of vaccines and more research to understand how men and women, who have different antibody responses, react to different dosing regimens.

With files from Alex Boyd

Tonda MacCharles is an Ottawa-based reporter covering federal politics for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @tondamacc

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Awash in vaccine, now Canada plans to share with other countries. Is it too little, too late?

It’s a staple of flight attendant wisdom: You must secure your own oxygen mask before trying to help others.And that seems to have been the mindset for the planet’s wealthiest countries, including Canada, during the initial race to get their citizens vaccinated against COVID-19.Now, with that rollout in such countries well underway, they’re turning to the rest of the world – a pivot global health experts say is too little, too late for the many nations that have been left gasping for breath.This weekend, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau committed to sending a total of 100 million doses abroad by the end of the year. It’s a slice of an overall one-billion-dose pledge made by the assembled nations of the G7.Of Canada’s committed doses, 87 million have been paid for by already announced funding. The other 13 million, confirmed International Development Minister Karina Gould, are the remainder of the doses Canada had purchased for itself from the global vaccine sharing program known as COVAX.Canada has been a major donor to COVAX, which is a global vaccine sharing scheme designed to make doses accessible to the developing world. Though it had the right to do so, Canada was heavily criticized for withdrawing doses from COVAX when it announced the move.Gould told the Star on Monday that Canada will take no more doses from the initiative for its own use.The decision to give the doses back is a reflection of the fact that this country is now relatively flush with vaccine — something most of the world cannot say.Global health experts say the commitments seen at the G7 summit, which saw leaders such as the U.K.’s Boris Johnson speak out against so-called vaccine nationalism, is still just a drop in the bucket. The bucket, in this case, being a planet of almost eight billion people, many of whom will need to get two doses of vaccine if the global pandemic is going to be brought to a halt.Advocates say Canada’s donation is relatively small — and that seven million of the shots are to be from a company called Novavax, whose vaccine has yet to be authorized for use in Canada or anywhere else.But Gould maintains that this is a process, and it won’t be the last donation. She’s also quick to reassure Canadians that none of this will affect the rollout here.“We’ve tried to be very careful in terms of making sure that once we know what’s excess, we can donate them,” she says.A new poll shows the line that Canadian government officials will have to walk. An Angus Reid poll, released Monday, found seven in 10 Canadians are against sending doses abroad until everyone within our borders has gotten a chance to get both jabs.The argument for sharing, as global health experts put it, is two-fold. There is a moral argument to help other countries while people continue to die, but also a selfish one: As long as the virus spreads around the world, Canadians will remain vulnerable to new variants and renewed waves of disease.It’s a perspective that Gould echoes — she speaks of the “moral imperative” of helping other countries. “But there’s also a self interest that, as Canadians, we’re only really going to be safe once the whole world is safe.”The response of Canada and other wealthy nations so far has disappointed some observers.“We’re in the middle of a pandemic; this is a global public health emergency,” says Jason Nickerson, an Ontario-based humanitarian affairs adviser for Doctors Without Borders.“Canada’s got a portfolio with more than 400 million doses, and a population of 38 million. I don’t understand why we’re not moving quicker to free up donations.”Early on in the pandemic, Canada was one of a handful of countries that hedged its bets by signing prepurchase agreements with multiple vaccine makers, essentially guaranteeing a spot in line should a dose prove successful. At that point, no one knew which of the vaccines would eventually work, so it was akin to backing a bunch of different horses in the race.The result of that strategy has been that the Canadian government got its hands on multiple leading vaccines relatively early on, but still has claim to enough doses to vaccinate the national population 10 times over.Canada wasn’t the only country to do this. As a result, for months, the lion’s share of the world’s vaccines have poured into a handful of wealthy countries while the rest of the world has had to wait.Some countries have been quicker to send the cavalry abroad, experts say.Russia and China have been sending shipments of their vaccines abroad for months, though questions have been raised about the efficacy of some of their shots. More recently, the U.S. announced its first plan to share 80 million doses to other countries by the end of June, while the U.K. pledged 30 million by the end of the year.Canada, in particular, has been thin on details, experts say. While we’ve donated millions of dollars to COVAX, this weekend marks the first commitment to send some of our own surplus shots.Right now, the push for wealthy c

Awash in vaccine, now Canada plans to share with other countries. Is it too little, too late?

It’s a staple of flight attendant wisdom: You must secure your own oxygen mask before trying to help others.

And that seems to have been the mindset for the planet’s wealthiest countries, including Canada, during the initial race to get their citizens vaccinated against COVID-19.

Now, with that rollout in such countries well underway, they’re turning to the rest of the world – a pivot global health experts say is too little, too late for the many nations that have been left gasping for breath.

This weekend, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau committed to sending a total of 100 million doses abroad by the end of the year. It’s a slice of an overall one-billion-dose pledge made by the assembled nations of the G7.

Of Canada’s committed doses, 87 million have been paid for by already announced funding. The other 13 million, confirmed International Development Minister Karina Gould, are the remainder of the doses Canada had purchased for itself from the global vaccine sharing program known as COVAX.

Canada has been a major donor to COVAX, which is a global vaccine sharing scheme designed to make doses accessible to the developing world. Though it had the right to do so, Canada was heavily criticized for withdrawing doses from COVAX when it announced the move.

Gould told the Star on Monday that Canada will take no more doses from the initiative for its own use.

The decision to give the doses back is a reflection of the fact that this country is now relatively flush with vaccine — something most of the world cannot say.

Global health experts say the commitments seen at the G7 summit, which saw leaders such as the U.K.’s Boris Johnson speak out against so-called vaccine nationalism, is still just a drop in the bucket. The bucket, in this case, being a planet of almost eight billion people, many of whom will need to get two doses of vaccine if the global pandemic is going to be brought to a halt.

Advocates say Canada’s donation is relatively small — and that seven million of the shots are to be from a company called Novavax, whose vaccine has yet to be authorized for use in Canada or anywhere else.

But Gould maintains that this is a process, and it won’t be the last donation. She’s also quick to reassure Canadians that none of this will affect the rollout here.

“We’ve tried to be very careful in terms of making sure that once we know what’s excess, we can donate them,” she says.

A new poll shows the line that Canadian government officials will have to walk. An Angus Reid poll, released Monday, found seven in 10 Canadians are against sending doses abroad until everyone within our borders has gotten a chance to get both jabs.

The argument for sharing, as global health experts put it, is two-fold. There is a moral argument to help other countries while people continue to die, but also a selfish one: As long as the virus spreads around the world, Canadians will remain vulnerable to new variants and renewed waves of disease.

It’s a perspective that Gould echoes — she speaks of the “moral imperative” of helping other countries. “But there’s also a self interest that, as Canadians, we’re only really going to be safe once the whole world is safe.”

The response of Canada and other wealthy nations so far has disappointed some observers.

“We’re in the middle of a pandemic; this is a global public health emergency,” says Jason Nickerson, an Ontario-based humanitarian affairs adviser for Doctors Without Borders.

“Canada’s got a portfolio with more than 400 million doses, and a population of 38 million. I don’t understand why we’re not moving quicker to free up donations.”

Early on in the pandemic, Canada was one of a handful of countries that hedged its bets by signing prepurchase agreements with multiple vaccine makers, essentially guaranteeing a spot in line should a dose prove successful. At that point, no one knew which of the vaccines would eventually work, so it was akin to backing a bunch of different horses in the race.

The result of that strategy has been that the Canadian government got its hands on multiple leading vaccines relatively early on, but still has claim to enough doses to vaccinate the national population 10 times over.

Canada wasn’t the only country to do this. As a result, for months, the lion’s share of the world’s vaccines have poured into a handful of wealthy countries while the rest of the world has had to wait.

Some countries have been quicker to send the cavalry abroad, experts say.

Russia and China have been sending shipments of their vaccines abroad for months, though questions have been raised about the efficacy of some of their shots. More recently, the U.S. announced its first plan to share 80 million doses to other countries by the end of June, while the U.K. pledged 30 million by the end of the year.

Canada, in particular, has been thin on details, experts say. While we’ve donated millions of dollars to COVAX, this weekend marks the first commitment to send some of our own surplus shots.

Right now, the push for wealthy countries to send vaccines elsewhere is a necessary Band-Aid, says Dr. Ananya Tina Banerjee, an assistant professor of public health at McGill University.

For as long as global health problems are solved by what is essentially voluntary donations there will always be a divide between the rich and the poor, she adds.

In some ways, COVID is following in the footsteps of the fight against AIDS, she says. That, too, was a global pandemic, but while western countries were able to get it largely under control, thanks to expensive pharmaceuticals, poorer countries remain reliant on donations and foreign aid and continue to battle what is still an active threat.

“At this point, it’s clear that low-income countries have charitable status, and that they have to wait upon the convenience of high-income countries, particularly, the U.K. and the U.S., where the vast majority of vaccines are being produced.”

Banerjee would rather wealthy countries take action that would spread vaccine research and production around.

For example, countries such as India and South Africa have been pushing for months for what is known as the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Waiver, known as the TRIPS Waiver for short, that would eliminate intellectual property for COVID-19 vaccines and allow them to be manufactured by other companies.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made the pitch to the G7 again over the weekend.

Gould says Canada remains open to TRIPS and officials see their role to be bringing different countries together to build consensus on things such as vaccine production and supply chains. Still, there has been no decision yet.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said, according to the BBC, “The world was looking to us to reject some of the selfish, nationalistic approaches that marred the initial global response to the pandemic and to channel all our diplomatic, economic and scientific might to defeating COVID for good.”

But Banerjee worries that Canadians aren’t yet getting that message. She points to the pushback, some of it hateful, she gets whenever she tweets about global vaccine equity.

The time is coming, she argues, when Canadians are going to realize that travel and trade and even normal life won’t fully return until the virus is under control in other parts of the world.

People “really need to understand that the pandemic is not going to be over for us as Canadians unless it’s over for everyone.”

Alex Boyd is a Calgary-based reporter for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @alex_n_boyd

Source : Toronto Star More   

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