(The Canadian Press)

Canada urged to avoid ‘vaccine nationalism’ in race for COVID-19 cure

‘Canada has a record to be proud of in this pandemic,’ says Washington-based Council on Foreign Relations

A top American health expert is praising Canada for not succumbing to “vaccine nationalism” because of its efforts to push for fair global distribution of a cure for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thomas Bollyky, director of the global health program at the Washington-based Council on Foreign Relations, says that sets Canada apart from the United States and European countries that are making moves to pre-buy massive amounts of potentially viable vaccines for their own populations.

Bollyky says that amounts to hoarding and would undermine joint efforts to neutralize COVID-19 in rich and poor countries alike.

“Canada has a record to be proud of in this pandemic,” Bollyky, who also teaches law at Georgetown University, said in an interview.

His own government, however, needs to do a lot better, Bollyky co-wrote in an essay to be published next month in the journal Foreign Affairs.

The perspective comes as the Trudeau government faces questions from health-care experts about why it is not doing more to fund domestic vaccine research to prevent Canadians from having to wait in line, potentially for months, for a pandemic cure that might be found in another country.

One senator and some health-care professionals are urging Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains to stop delaying a decision on the $35-million pitch by Toronto-based Providence Therapeutics to begin human trials of a new, experimental vaccine technology that has been heavily funded in the United States.

Providence says it would share its expertise internationally and could potentially deliver five million doses of a vaccine to Canadians by mid-2021, but it can’t move forward with testing or manufacturing without funding.

Bollyky said he doesn’t know anything about the Providence proposal, but he made clear that countries have to share at least some of whatever viable vaccine is created on their soil for the good of stamping out the pandemic everywhere.

“”If Canada invests in this company … the fact that some of that supply would be used to meet their own needs is fine,” Bollyky said in an interview.

“The question is: would Canada use all of their early supplies to vaccinate low-risk members of their population and hoard in that regard? Or will they participate in this allocation mechanism that allows other priority needs in other nations to be met before they address low-risk members of their own country?”

ALSO READ: B.C. records 29 more COVID-19 cases, no new deaths

Providence CEO Brad Sorenson said his company would be open to sharing its vaccine expertise internationally but is frustrated that the government hasn’t responded to its proposal since May.

“If we got support from the Canadian government, we’d develop the vaccine in Canada,” Sorenson said in an interview.

“We would seek out further investment and we would look to approach other countries similar to Canada’s size and similar to Canada’s capabilities and we would look to partner and expand the availability of this technology, to tech transfer this technology to other countries.”

In the essay, Bollyky and Chad P. Brown, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics shoot down the “oxygen mask” argument put forth by the Trump administration to support vaccinating Americans first. The well-known practice calls for airline passengers to put on their own oxygen masks first in a depressurizing airplane, so they can help others, especially children.

“The major difference, of course, is that airplane oxygen masks do not drop only in first class — which is the equivalent of what will happen when vaccines eventually become available if governments delay providing access to them to people in other countries,” write Bollyky and Brown.

Bains spokesman John Power said the government is ”working on all possible fronts to deliver safe and effective treatments and vaccines against COVID-19 to Canadians.

“This includes investments in scaling up Canadian vaccine manufacturing capabilities, funding support to Canadian vaccine candidates as part of Canada’s contribution to the global effort to find a vaccine, and partnering with the most promising international candidates.”

Canada has also invested more than $1 billion in various international co-operative efforts to find a vaccine. One of the them is the World Health Organization’s COVAX Facility in which countries will “share risk by accessing a wide portfolio of vaccine candidates,” said Power.

COVAX is the world’s only pooled vaccine procurement scheme, and its goal is to deliver two billion doses of safe, effective and WHO-approved vaccines by the end of 2021, he said.

Power said the vaccines would be delivered to all participating countries, proportional to their populations, with health-care workers being the recipients.

After that, the vaccine access would be expanded to cover 20 per cent of the populations of participating countries, he said.

“Further doses will then be made available based on a country’s needs, vulnerability and COVID-19 threat,” said Power.

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

New report finds ‘chronic’ shortage of daycare spaces across Greater Victoria

Sidney meets 52 per cent of demand, the best figure for six surveyed communities

Greater Victoria thrift shop quietly closes two locations indefinitely

Society of St. Vincent de Paul shut down Sooke and Central Saanich storefronts

Heavy rains cause wastewater overflow off Oak Bay, Saanich beaches

Affected beaches will be posted with public health advisory signs

Double the speed limit nets Saanich driver $368 fine, points, car impound in Colwood

Colwood council has identified Ocean Boulevard as a hot spot for speeding

Four-storey Oak Bay Avenue development to have rooftop garden

Redfern 35-unit development sent to public hearing

B.C. reports 91 new cases as officials remain worried over ‘clusters of COVID-19

There have now been a total of 8,395 cases in B.C. since the pandemic began

POLL: Do you agree with the decision to call a provincial election for Oct. 24?

British Columbians will put their social distancing skills to the test when… Continue reading

‘Won’t be gathering for Thanksgiving:’ Trudeau says COVID-19 2nd wave underway

In all, COVID-19 has killed about 9,250 people in Canada

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

‘Show us the money’ for cannabis, local governments tell B.C.

Municipal tax, transit revenues falling as costs rise

Canada’s active COVID-19 cases top 10,000 as daily new cases triple over the past month

Dr. Tam repeated her warning to young people, who have made up the majority of recent cases

Liberal effort to reset policy agenda panned by rivals as too much talk, not action

Trudeau said it’s ‘all too likely’ families won’t be able to gather for Thanksgiving next month

Cops for Cancer: COVID-19 can’t stop Tour de Rock

‘having the chance to come back and ride this year means everything to me’

Most Read