The United States on Thursday unveiled plans to share 25 million of its COVID-19 vaccines across the borders, with nearly six million doses targeted towards “regional priorities and partner recipients,” including Canada and Mexico, among others.
At this point, it is unclear how many doses Canada would be offered or which vaccine would be sent.
“We first made doses available to our closest neighbors – Canada and Mexico. Our dose sharing approach prioritizes Latin American and the Caribbean on a per capita basis,” the White House said in a statement.
Other beneficiaries of the priority group include the Republic of Korea, the West Bank and Gaza, Ukraine, Kosovo, Haiti, Georgia, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Yemen and United Nations front-line workers.
The White House has previously stated its intent to share 80 million vaccine doses with the world by the end of June.
The administration said 25 per cent of doses will be kept in reserve for emergencies and for the U.S. to share directly with allies and partners, while 75 per cent of the excess doses will go to the U.N.-backed COVAX global vaccine sharing program.
The much-awaited vaccine sharing plan comes as demand for COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S. dipped significantly with over 63 per cent of adults having received at least one shot.
Nearly 19 million doses will now be shared through COVAX, with close to six million vaccines allocated for South and Central America, to countries including, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, Peru, Ecuador, Paraguay, Bolivia, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Panama, Haiti, and other Caribbean Community countries, as well as the Dominican Republic.
Another seven million doses will go to Asia to countries like India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Maldives, Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, Laos, Papua New Guinea, Taiwan, and the Pacific Islands.
“This vaccine strategy is a vital component of our overall global strategy to lead the world in the fight to defeat COVID-19, including emergency public health assistance and aid to stop the spread and building global public health capacity and readiness to beat not just this pandemic, but the next one,” the statement further said.
It also mentioned that the U.S. “will not use its vaccines to secure favors from other countries,” and their donations will target countries with vaccine readiness plans “that prioritize individuals at highest risk of severe disease and those working to help care for them”.
While this approach may “take time,” U.S. President Joe Biden has directed the administration “to use all the levers of the U.S. government to protect individuals from this virus as quickly as possible,” the statement said.
“The specific vaccines and amounts will be determined and shared as the Administration works through the logistical, regulatory and other parameters particular to each region and country.”
Canada and the United Kingdom are the only two G7 nations not donating vaccines directly to COVAX and taking doses from the alliance through the self-financing mechanism.
COVAX was established as a program to try and ensure the limited supply of COVID-19 vaccines were shared equitably around the world, and offered wealthy countries the chance to buy doses through COVAX and donate money to help buy doses for 92 low and middle income countries that otherwise couldn’t buy all the vaccines they needed.
Canada spent $220 million to buy doses from COVAX for itself, receiving almost one million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine through the sharing program.
In a statement emailed to Global News Thursday, Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand said, “Through our diversified procurement approach, Canadians have access to multiple types and sources of COVID-19 vaccines.”
Canada will continue to work with the United States government “to ensure that a more stable delivery schedule can be established and maintained,” she added.
“We look forward to continuing our work in partnership with the American government and our vaccine suppliers to facilitate additional access to U.S. supply chains for approved vaccines to best serve Canadians.”
However, experts feel it’s time for Canada to take a page out of Biden’s book and start donating doses instead.
“It’s a great signal that the Biden administration is making it a priority to share surplus doses back. It’s something Canada should also announce very soon,” Stuart Hickox, Canada Director, the ONE Campaign told Global News on Thursday.
Dionne M. Aleman, associate professor, Industrial Engineering, University of Toronto, shared a similar opinion.
“Sending some of our vaccines to those countries with a lot of travelers to Canada would better help our case counts than using that same number of vaccines on Canadians,” Professor Aleman said.
“Vaccine uptake will inevitably wane within the next couple months, so I would hazard a guess at late September for sharing, when in all likelihood most Canadians who want two shots will have received them, and our supply will be enough to support any remaining scheduled second doses,” she added.
The other G7 nations aren’t using the self-financing route, and are donating doses directly to COVAX already. France, Germany and Japan are promising 30 million doses, and the U.S. is starting with at least 19 million this month, with the expectation of more.
— With files from The Canadian Press