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.
“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.
“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.
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.”
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.
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.