Biden said he spoke to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Wednesday about providing additional vaccine assistance to Canada, but also suggested some of the extra vaccines could go to Central America. He noted that the U.S. doesn’t yet have enough to send at this time, but said the U.S. could provide help down the line.
“We hope to be able to be of some help and value to countries around the world. We talked to our neighbours,” he said at a press conference on Wednesday, acknowledging his phone call with Trudeau.
“We helped a little bit there. We’re going to try to help some more. but there are other countries as well that I’m confident we can help, including in Central America.”
No dates or numbers can be confirmed at this point.
Biden’s comments come as the U.S. sits on a stockpile of vaccine doses that it’s not currently using. More than 277 million vaccine doses have been delivered throughout the U.S., according to the latest numbers from the country’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A readout of the call provided by the Prime Minister’s Office said the two leaders discussed “vaccination efforts in both countries, and the urgency of getting people everywhere vaccinated as quickly as possible to end the global COVID-19 pandemic.”
Among other things, the two also discussed the upcoming Leaders Summit on Climate, the federal budget, the detentions of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor in China and the “recent exchange of AstraZeneca vaccines manufactured in the United States.”
Another readout of the call published by the White House said Trudeau and Biden “agreed to continue efforts to control the pandemic, collaborate on public health responses and global health security, as well as to support global affordable access and delivery of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines, including through the COVAX facility.”
Conservative shadow health critic Michelle Rempel Garner tweeted out thanks to the U.S. shortly after the news broke.
“GOD BLESS AMERICA! Thank you!” The tweet read. “You are coming through when our government failed.”
This isn’t the first time the U.S. has offered vaccine help to Canada. In March, the U.S. provided 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine on loan. In other words, Canada will eventually have to return the favour.
Through a bilateral agreement, 20 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine are expected to funnel into Canada from manufacturing plants in the U.S. over the second and third quarters of this year.
The U.S. also gave 2.5 million doses to Mexico.
Biden said the White House is looking at what it can do with vaccines that aren’t currently in use in the U.S. but are being manufactured there.
AstraZeneca, for example, has been approved for use by Health Canada, but not by the U.S. food and Drug Administration.
Biden said he spoke with Trudeau for about half an hour. He described him as someone who was “working hard to take care of his country and deal with this.”
The U.S. is set to meet Biden’s goal of administering 200 million coronavirus doses in his first 100 days in office, with more than 50 per cent of adults at least partially vaccinated.
Just this week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that every American aged 16 years and above is now eligible for COVID-19 vaccination.
— with files from the Canadian Press and the Associated Press