Many Canadians are still waiting to get their own vaccine, but let’s pull back and look at the big picture for now: For every 10 Canadians vaccinated we can vaccinate 1 African Healthcare Worker. This is a small move that lets us continue vaccinating here at home but will make a big difference in ending the pandemic.
As the number of COVID-19 cases rise and the risk of prolonged lockdowns continue, Canadians are rightfully worried about getting sick, losing their livelihoods or even their loved ones. But as vaccination ramps up at home, we can move one more step closer to ending this pandemic.
A global pandemic requires a global response. And unfortunately, most other nations have a lower vaccination rate than Canada. At the current pace, over 60% of the world’s population live in countries that won’t see widespread COVID-19 vaccine coverage until 2022 or even later.
In the world right now, we can see the effects of the pandemic on poorer countries, as it continues to wreak havoc. India is that latest country to experience the worst of COVID-19.
And with the risk of the virus spreading and more variants developing, this undermines our domestic efforts and puts our vaccinated population back in danger.
The good news is countries are starting to step up and work together. The President of the USA, Joe Biden just announced that they will make vaccine doses available for countries around the world. The best and fastest way to end the global pandemic is to prioritize vaccine access for front-line health workers and vulnerable populations everywhere.
So: How can Canada contribute?
Donate Canada’s extra vaccines
Canada will receive at least 48 million vaccine doses by the end of June. This is more than enough to give every Canadian at least the first dose. By the end of September, Canada will have at least 117 million doses on hand with more to come — enough to give two doses to all Canadians with plenty to spare.
The doses secured is enough to vaccinate 100% of the Canadian population, over 37 million people, and an additional 52 million individuals. To put it in perspective, this excess is enough to fully vaccinate every single front-line health worker in Africa, with plenty left over for other high-risk groups.
We know that vaccinating front-line health workers is key to slowing the spread of the pandemic. That is why we made them a top priority here in Canada. We need to make front-line health workers in poorer countries a priority too, so we can reduce the change of more variants and mutations.
When to donate and how much
Prime Minister Trudeau has committed to donating excess vaccine doses. And this is great news! But we’re in a race against variants and the longer we delay vaccine access for front-line health workers and vulnerable populations around the world, the more time we allow the virus to mutate and further spread.
The best chance we have against the pandemic is to simultaneously vaccinate the most vulnerable populations at home and abroad.
Starting in May or June, for every 10 Canadians vaccinated, Canada could start donating just 1 dose to help stop COVID-19 in poorer countries. This is a total of 4.8 million doses shared, enough to vaccinate everyone in a country like Lesotho, while still leaving more than enough doses for every Canadian adult to receive their first shot in that same period.
From July to September, Canada will be able to accelerate the donation process and still have more than enough supply to ensure every Canadian adult can receive their second dose.
By the fall, once Canada’s vaccination campaign is nearly complete, the remainder of its excess doses should be donated. This is possible because Canada pre-purchased almost 10 doses per Canadian – far more than we need to vaccinate each and every Canadian. We should not let that oversupply go to waste, and we must do our fair share to make sure that poorer countries can vaccinate their populations so that everyone, everywhere is safe.
Where to donate
There is already a global partnership to ensure equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines: the COVAX Facility, and this partnership is working! As of April, it had delivered over 49 million doses to 121 countries.
However, COVAX faces a critical supply shortage because rich countries, including Canada, pre-purchased more than enough to cover their entire populations multiple times over, leaving little for lower income countries.
Not only are we racing against variants, but we’re also racing against the expiration of vaccines. This is why Canada needs to start sharing excess doses as early as possible with COVAX and plan for the doses to be shipped directly from the manufacturer, allowing rapid deployment and maximizing shelf-life.