OTTAWA – The government of Canada still intends to draw down vaccines from the COVAX facility, a global vaccine-sharing initiative established by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations (GAVI) among others.
“The government knows that COVAX is under threat, and it is totally disingenuous for it to continue to insist that the COVAX facility is functioning as intended," said Green Party Leader Annamie Paul. "Just today, the WHO has said that countries that are still pursuing deals, and hoarding vaccines, are compromising the COVAX supply. To date, only a few poor countries have received vaccines via COVAX.
“Ensuring the success of COVAX is more important than ever. Of the billions of doses of various vaccines that have been purchased worldwide, the overwhelming majority have been reserved by rich countries like Canada, the U.S., European Union members, and the U.K. In contrast, low-income countries have only been able to buy a small fraction of doses. That's where COVAX comes in.
"The CEO of GAVI has said that the most important role of COVAX is to ‘supply vaccines for countries that otherwise wouldn't get access.’ Many middle and low-income countries are completely dependent on this supply and cannot afford to buy vaccines in the global market.”
"In light of all this, Canada’s decision to take vaccines from the COVAX facility is a terrible plan:
- First and foremost, it is not right – simply put, the more doses Canada takes from COVAX, the fewer COVAX has available for poor countries who have no other source. Even with COVAX, most vaccine distribution models predict that there will not be universal vaccination against COVID-19 in poor countries until 2023 or 2024, compared with rich countries, where it may happen this year. This is a problem because poorer countries will have to wait longer to vaccinate their residents, and those delays will cost more lives proportionately compared to Western countries.
- It hurts people in Canada – infectious disease specialists say that unless vaccines are shared more equitably it could be years before the coronavirus is brought under control at a global level. Until it is brought under control globally, people in Canada will not be safe.
- It will promote new variants – infectious disease specialists say that the longer COVID-19 circulates internationally, the more likely it is that it will mutate into variants that existing vaccines will not be effective against.
- It hurts our economy – Canada is a trading nation. The longer COVID-19 circulates internationally, the longer it will take for our international partners’ economies to recover.
- It hurts our global standing – This is not the kind of leadership Canada has been known for. Headlines from around the world have highlighted the world’s bemusement that Canada is the only G7 country to draw down doses from COVAX. The headline of the BBC earlier this month was “Canada defends taking vaccines from scheme for the poor”.
“This is not a binary choice; the government can protect people in Canada without dipping into the COVAX facility and taking vaccines away from poor countries. The government can:
- Create a coordinated national vaccination plan to make sure that all existing doses go to those most at risk – following the recommendations of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) - until more doses are available to all. We still lack a unified, coordinated strategy, and that is putting us at risk.
- Support global initiatives to assist countries in producing generic vaccines. The government should be insisting, along with global allies, that pharmaceutical companies share their technology and intellectual property with COVAX to enable mass vaccine production.
“Canada is part of a global family, and Canadians know that caring for our neighbours extends beyond our borders. Canadians want to be responsible members of the international community, and the government should refuse to take any doses from the COVAX facility. It’s not smart, but most importantly, it’s not right.”
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