U.S. President Donald Trump’s plan to sign an executive order aimed at giving Americans priority access to coronavirus vaccines shouldn’t affect doses earmarked for Canadian citizens, Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc said Tuesday.
“We’re very confident that Pfizer and other vaccine makers that are contractually obligated to deliver doses to Canada will be able to meet those obligations,” LeBlanc said.
Senior U.S. administration officials announced on Monday that Trump plans to sign the “America First” executive order on Tuesday. The order would give Americans priority access to a COVID-19 vaccine before assisting other nations.
Officials also explained that the order would establish a framework for U.S. government agencies to lend a hand to other nations in their vaccine procurement efforts – that is, once the U.S. demand has been met.
Trump’s decision to sign the “America First” executive order comes as Canada is poised to receive the green light from Health Canada on the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine candidate. Officials have said that the vaccine is on track for regulatory approval this week, with jabs going into Canadian arms as early as next week.
However, some of Pfizer’s vaccine doses are manufactured in the United States – prompting questions about how the executive order could affect the doses destined to land on Canadian soil.
LeBlanc assured reporters that Canada prepared for this possibility.
“With respect to the Pfizer doses that we expect to start arriving in the coming days, in the next week or so, we have already assumed that we shouldn’t be tied to one particular manufacturing site. So the contracts themselves contemplate that Pfizer, for example, has manufacturing facilities in Europe as well as the United States,” he said.
“We’re confident that there won’t be any disruption in the effective and timely supply of vaccines to Canadians.”
He added that Canada “contemplated” this kind of vaccine nationalism in its procurement agreements as they were drawn up.
“We’ve said from the beginning we have a very diversified portfolio, one of the best in the world, in terms of different doses, different companies, obviously all subject to the appropriate regulatory approval by Health Canada,” LeBlanc said.
The New York Times has reported that Pfizer might not be able to provide additional doses of its vaccine to U.S. citizens until next June due to its commitments to other countries.
A spokesperson for Pfizer also told Reuters that the U.S. government has placed an “initial order” of 100 million doses for Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine – doses that are ready to be shipped “soon.”
“Any additional doses beyond the 100 million are subject to a separate and mutually acceptable agreement,” Pfizer’s spokesperson Sharon Castillo said.
Meanwhile, Canada is slated to receive 249,000 doses of the vaccine candidate before the end of the year, officials told reporters on Monday.
The government has already signed on to buy at least 20 million doses from Pfizer, with the option of purchasing another 56 million doses within the deal. Each Canadian will need two doses of the vaccine.
With a population just shy of 38 million, the Pfizer deal alone allows for the purchase of enough vaccine doses to inoculate the entire nation.
Canada is also in the process of reviewing three other vaccine candidates, including one from Moderna. If that vaccine candidate is approved, the company could also deliver two million doses in early 2021.
—With files from Reuters