On Wednesday, the chief executive of Gavi, one of the organisations that is helping to administer Covax, was asked if it was helpful that many wealthy countries did not opt to take vaccines from the first batch that will be distributed. “Of course it helps,” Seth Berkley, Gavi CEO, said. “That means there are more doses available for others.”
The supply through Covax – which is not final and subject to manufacturing and logistical delays – represents a boost to the six million doses Canada was already expecting from Pfizer and Moderna before the end of March.
Despite reserving large supplies, Canada has struggled to get its vaccination program off the ground. Unlike other rich countries, it does not have fully developed domestic production capacity and is reliant on shipments from abroad.
The Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, has said the country will vaccinate its population by September, but has so far managed to reach just 2.5% of people, raising doubts it will reach its target before 2022.
“Compared to other OECD countries, Canada is way down to the bottom of the pack in terms of vaccinations per hundred thousand,” said Ronald Labonté, former Canada research chair in globalisation and health equity at the University of Ottawa.
“Would I criticise Canada for having engaged in vaccine nationalism at the outset? Yes, but I would also do that with all of the countries that have since followed suit … We’ve moved from vaccine nationalism to a vaccine race.”
Research released last week predicted that most low-income countries would not have sufficient vaccine supplies until at least 2024, by which time most rich and middle-income countries may have achieved close to full vaccination.
The delay will slow the global economic recovery from the crisis and increase the chance of new variants emerging that overcome immunity induced by vaccines: