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Canada’s vaccine reserve exceeds 4 million doses, prompting calls for better tracking of donations

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The federal authorities’s central COVID-19 vaccine stock has far exceeded its goal of 4 million doses in current months — at occasions holding greater than triple that quantity, in accordance with a CBC evaluation.

World vaccine fairness advocates say the figures present that Canada was preserving further doses in reserve at a time when the demand for booster pictures wasn’t but there and whereas a number of lower-income international locations struggled to get vaccines.

As Canada’s vaccination drive kicked into gear over the summer time, the federal authorities mentioned it might maintain a reserve of about four million shots for Canadians to entry, and any stock flagged as extra can be donated to different international locations.

However an evaluation of the federal authorities’s on-line archives utilizing the Wayback Machine exhibits that central vaccine stock knowledge hasn’t dipped towards the four-million-dose mark since that pledge was made by then Procurement Minister Anita Anand on Aug. 12.

At its lowest, the reserve was at 6.5 million doses round mid-November. At its highest, it was at greater than 13 million doses, in accordance with federal knowledge.

As of Thursday, the federal reserve sat at round 6.5 million doses.

The federal reserve figures don’t embody any extra vaccines in provincial or territorial reserves. There are at the moment 16 million doses within the federal and provincial reserves mixed, Well being Minister Jean-Yves Duclos mentioned Wednesday.

The figures spotlight that Canada “completely may very well be doing much more” to observe by way of on its pledge to help the growing world, mentioned Adam Houston, medical coverage and advocacy officer for Docs With out Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières.

“It has been very troubling at a time of a really severe international vaccine inequity,” mentioned Houston. “I believe it additionally underscores the truth that Canada did take greater than it wanted.”

Because the Omicron variant spreads all through Canada and the world, quite a few Canadian docs and advocates have mentioned that getting the world vaccinated is vital to stopping additional unfold and mutation of the coronavirus. 

With booster pictures now rolling out to extra Canadians, Houston and different advocates say the federal authorities must be extra clear shifting ahead about its plans for extra doses and donations to lower-income international locations.

Central vaccine stock

In asserting a donation of 10 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine to low and middle-income international locations final August, Anand pledged that the federal authorities would proceed to help the growing world. 

“Going ahead, our authorities will preserve a reserve of vaccines of roughly 4 million doses that might be managed by Minister [Patty] Hajdu and the [Public Health Agency of Canada], in co-ordination with the provinces and territories,” she mentioned.

“The aim of the reserve is to make sure that vaccines are available for Canadians when they’re wanted whereas, on the identical time, guaranteeing that doses can be found for different international locations.”

Canadian doses recognized as surplus, she mentioned, would be donated to worldwide companions “on an ongoing foundation as negotiated and facilitated” by then-Worldwide Improvement Minister Karina Gould.

WATCH | Federal authorities guarantees vaccine reserve cap:

Federal authorities guarantees vaccine reserve cap

Former Procurement Minister Anita Anand on Aug. 12 mentioned Canada will preserve a reserve of about 4 million vaccines for Canadians to entry as wanted, and mentioned the remainder might be utilized in different international locations. 1:38

Having some further doses available is affordable, contemplating vaccine deliveries and demand do not at all times match completely, mentioned Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious illnesses doctor at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton and an affiliate professor at McMaster College.

“However on the identical time, having that massive of a reserve is an issue,” he mentioned. “Not solely an issue with the context of eight million doses within the federal reserve, and sure extra in provincial reserves. There’s an issue that these doses now must be administered on our soil.”

World Well being Group and UNICEF officers have mentioned some international locations are receiving extra vaccines from wealthier international locations which are about to run out, making it tough to distribute them.

“It grew and it saved rising, even after vaccine campaigns slowed down,” Chagla mentioned of the federal reserve.

Officers posed subsequent to Canada’s first donated doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which arrived in three international locations in Africa on Sept. 2, 2021. The doses have been a part of a Canadian pledge to COVAX. (Gavi)

Canada’s pledges

All through the pandemic, Canada has supplied vaccines and monetary help to different international locations by way of international efforts like the COVAX vaccine-sharing initiative, which swimming pools funds from wealthier international locations to purchase vaccines for these international locations and to make sure low and middle-income international locations even have entry.

As of Thursday, Canada has donated greater than 9.2 million surplus vaccine doses by way of COVAX. Canada has additionally shared 762,080 doses of AstraZeneca by way of bilateral preparations with international locations in Latin America and the Caribbean.

“One of many massive considerations about donation is that Canada has not shared a whole lot of doses,” mentioned Houston.

“When you concentrate on the truth that, a lot of this time, we have had greater than 10 million doses within the central vaccine stock alone, that basically raises a whole lot of questions on Canada’s capacity to do extra.”

As of Thursday, Canada has donated over 9.2 million surplus vaccine doses by way of COVAX. (Rogelio V. Solis/AP Picture)

In an announcement, a Well being Canada spokesperson mentioned that when vaccine provide is “deemed surplus to home wants, the Authorities of Canada works to donate these doses.”

The assertion went on to say the federal authorities has labored with provinces and territories to verify “enough provide” is offered for vaccination campaigns throughout the nation.

“The Authorities of Canada additionally holds doses on behalf of provinces and territories which have already been allotted for home use, together with provide to help booster campaigns,” the assertion mentioned.

Public Providers and Procurement Canada deferred remark to Well being Canada.

Want for transparency

Vaccine fairness advocates say Canada must be extra clear about what it’s doing with its extra doses shifting ahead, as not less than 1,000,000 doses have already expired right here.

“We don’t have to have the type of stockpiles of six to 10 million doses greater than we’d like. There’s simply an enormous threat there — that is a threat of expiry,” mentioned Julia Anderson, CEO of the Canadian Partnership for Girls and Kids’s Well being, a non-profit, multi-stakeholder group that goals to reinforce Canada’s international influence and fame.

“Canadians want vaccines to get into arms. And that is each to get into Canadian arms however, actually, the race now could be to get it into arms all over the world if you do not need one other Omicron that’s rather more lethal.”

Particularly, particulars like timelines are wanted on a few of Canada’s pledges, advocates say.

“I truly need them to have a mandate, a timeline and a plan to guarantee that as vaccines are in extra, that they are truly going to be given globally,” mentioned Ananya Tina Banerjee, an assistant professor at McGill College’s College of Inhabitants and World Well being and at College of Toronto’s Dalla Lana College of Public Well being. 

“There must be a zero-excuses method to fixing this international problem if Canadians need their lives again,” mentioned Anderson.

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