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Canada has asked U.S. for COVID-19 vaccine help, White House confirms

Click to play video: 'White House won’t say if Canada’s vaccine request will be granted, no timeline for response' White House won’t say if Canada’s vaccine request will be granted, no timeline for response
WATCH: White House won’t say if Canada’s vaccine request will be granted, no timeline for response – Mar 17, 2021

Canada has indeed asked the United States for help in procuring doses of COVID-19 vaccines, but the White House refused to say Wednesday whether it has agreed to the request.

Press secretary Jen Psaki was responding to reports about Canada and Mexico clamouring for surplus doses — including one from Bloomberg News that the two countries would top the list when the time comes.

Read more: Separating noise from signals: How ‘adverse reactions’ to COVID-19 vaccines are investigated

“We have received requests from both Mexico and Canada and are considering those requests carefully,” Psaki said.

“I don’t have any update for you on whether they will be granted and a timeline for that.”

Instead, she repeated the long-standing White House position that President Joe Biden first wants to ensure that every American who wants to can get vaccinated, and that it happen as soon as possible.

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“We are still in the midst of fighting the war against the pandemic, right here,” Psaki said, acknowledging the U.S. is currently leading the world in getting its residents vaccinated.

That’s largely because of the country’s virtually unrivalled capacity for developing and manufacturing vaccines, which has been almost exclusively focused on meeting domestic demand.

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: Procurement minister says Canada to get at least 36.5M vaccine doses by June' Coronavirus: Procurement minister says Canada to get at least 36.5M vaccine doses by June
Coronavirus: Procurement minister says Canada to get at least 36.5M vaccine doses by June – Mar 5, 2021

But the international responsibility that comes with that manufacturing capacity is not lost on Biden, who also understands the importance of getting people vaccinated around the world, Psaki said.

“The president wants to be, we all want to be, contributing members of the global community and getting the pandemic under control,” she said.

“Any decision we make about requests ? will ensure that we’re able to still quickly vaccinate the American people, as that remains our top priority.”

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Canada, a country devoid of its own domestic manufacturing pipeline, has been lagging in its vaccination efforts, thanks in part to lingering production problems. Export controls in Europe, which have so far not affected Canada’s shipments, are a potential threat.

Read more: AstraZeneca vaccine can now be used on seniors in Canada, NACI says

Those bottlenecks are only beginning to clear. Health Canada says more than 8.5 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are scheduled to arrive in Canada over the next eight weeks.

Shipments of the two-dose Moderna vaccine have not been confirmed past the end of March, while a delivery date has yet to materialize for the other two vaccines — the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot and a single-dose option from Johnson & Johnson.

The Serum Institute of India is to ship another million doses of its version of the AstraZeneca vaccine next month, with an additional 500,000 in May, but it is not clear when those will arrive.

Canada is also counting on an additional 1.6 million doses of AstraZeneca being shipped from a production facility in South Korea before the end of May.

Global News sent a request for comment to Procurement Canada to determine how many doses the country is seeking from the U.S., but did not immediately hear back.
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