Canada to commit to sharing up to 100 million COVID-19 vaccine doses

Canada will commit to sharing up to 100 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines with the world in a formal announcement that will come later in the G7 summit, the country’s high commissioner to the United Kingdom said Friday.

Ralph Goodale’s remarks came as pressure increased on the Liberal government to clearly outline its strategy to contribute to a growing international effort to immunize the world’s population more quickly.

Earlier in the day, a government official speaking on background floated the 100 million figure to the media contingent travelling with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to the G7 — his first foreign trip since the onset of the pandemic.

The government official was unable to say how much of the planned announcement involved new money or direct vaccine contributions, and how much will be drawn from what Canada has contributed already to COVAX, the World Health Organization’s vaccine initiative.

Goodale said the details will have to wait until the end of the summit. He insisted the donation will not affect the supply of lifesaving vaccines meant for Canadians.

“Canadians shouldn’t be worried about any negative impact within Canada,” said Goodale, who indicated that details will be released in a table that compares Canada’s contribution to other G7 nations.

“The exact proportions in terms of cash contributions and in-kind contributions, that will be summarized on Sunday.”

Canada’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, former federal cabinet minister, Ralph Goodale speaks to the media in Cornwall, UK during the G7 Summit. (Murray Brewster/CBC News)

Goodale also insisted that Canada, through COVAX, has been at the forefront of the international effort to get people in poorer countries vaccinated.

“We were quick off the mark to participate in the global effort and to be among the most generous countries in the world,” he said.

All countries at the G7 summit, he added, are feeling pressure to step up — not just Canada.

The United Kingdom dramatically raised the international stakes on Thursday by announcing a large-scale donation of surplus COVID-19 vaccines to countries in need.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who says he wants to see the globe fully vaccinated by the end of next year, said late Thursday Britain will donate 100 million doses by the end of the year.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks with CBC chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton on May 28, 2021. (Mathieu Theriault/CBC)

Canada’s timeline is less clear.

The British announcement followed a pledge earlier this week from the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden to deliver 500 million doses.

Johnson announced the U.K.’s contribution on the eve of the G7 summit.

“I think you have to look at what the U.K. is doing overall because it is colossal,” Johnson was quoted as saying by British media during a waterfront availability.

For weeks, Johnson has been pushing G7 countries to set a goal of vaccinating the world by the end of 2022, rather than 2024 or 2025, which is the current goal of health officials.

In a recent interview with the CBC’s chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton, Johnson said Prime Minister Trudeau and the leaders of France and Germany are keen on the idea and that he has high expectations for the summit.

“We’ll be looking to come up with some big numbers, because, after all, nobody is safe until everybody is safe,” he said. 

The world’s leading democracies are expected to announce they will provide at least one billion coronavirus vaccine doses to the world by the end of the G7 summit.

While Canada doesn’t produce any COVID-19 vaccines of its own, it has been criticized by a group of 32 humanitarian agencies for not sharing any doses of imported vaccines.

Last week, International Development Minister Karina Gould told a Senate committee Canada will eventually share doses, but at the moment it doesn’t have any excess because the country is still trying to get every Canadian immunized.

Canada pledges $440M to COVAX

Canada recently doubled its financial commitment to COVAX to $440 million.

The international agency has been struggling to close off an urgent gap of 200 million doses, which was created by manufacturing delays and supply disruptions coming out of India — the result of a massive outbreak in that country. 

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