Canada donating 17.7M AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines amid global disparities

Procurement Minister Anita Anand says the Canadian government will donate a total of 17.7 million additional doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine through the COVAX vaccine sharing program.

It comes as global cases continue to spike and after increasingly dire warnings from the World Health Organization that countries like Canada must step up to share more vaccines to those without access.

Public health officials have reviewed Canada’s vaccination progress and contracts, and deemed those doses “excess,” Anand said in a press conference on Monday.

“While Canadians continue to lead the world in vaccine administration, we know the picture is very different in many parts of the world,” Anand said.

READ MORE: Pressure mounts for Canada to share surplus COVID-19 vaccines

Canada has administered roughly three million doses of AstraZeneca, with the majority of doses administered across the country being the mRNA vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna.

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The contract with AstraZeneca was for a total of 20 million doses, and there had been a question mark hanging around the future of roughly 17 million doses still under contract.

Anand had said previously that the government was committed to donating additional doses of COVID-19 vaccines, and the influx of mRNA vaccines over the last two months has turned Canada into a global leader in the pace of vaccinations.

Anand said 79 per cent of eligible Canadians have now received at least one dose, while 49 per cent of eligible Canadians are now fully vaccinated. The government’s vaccine tracker, last updated on July 9, listed those rates at 78 per cent and 41 per cent, respectively.

READ MORE: WHO chief says COVID-19 vaccine needs outstrip G7 promises

However, while Canada is racing ahead when it comes to vaccinations, much of the rest of the world still has no access to any vaccines and case counts continue to rise. According to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Centre, there are 186,963,461 global cases and more than four million deaths.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said last month that in order to end the pandemic globally, 70 per cent of the world’s population must be vaccinated by next year.

“We need more, and we need them faster,” he said of doses.

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David Morley, president and CEO of UNICEF Canada, echoed those remarks.

“As Canadians, we’ve witnessed first hand the devastating effect the pandemic has had,” Morley said on Monday alongside Anand and International Development Minister Karina Gould.

“The reality is this: the pandemic will not end for anyone until it ends for everyone.”

Anand said the deliveries are set to take place “within the coming weeks.”

It’s not yet clear where COVAX officials will send those doses.

— More to come.

Click to play video: '‘Scandalous inequity:’WHO urges rich countries to get more vaccines for poorer countries'

‘Scandalous inequity:’WHO urges rich countries to get more vaccines for poorer countries

‘Scandalous inequity:’WHO urges rich countries to get more vaccines for poorer countries – May 24, 2021

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