(The Canadian Press)

(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

Just Posted

Parksville Golden Oldies Sports Association’s popular walking soccer league was one of several sports programs and activities that were cancelled following provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s latest announcement to ban indoor adult team sports. (PQB News file photo)
Adult sports shutdown ‘tough pill to swallow’ for some Vancouver Islanders

Adult recreation adjusting to new provincial COVID-19 orders

Island Health has reported a COVID-19 outbreak at Saanich Peninsula Hospital. (Arnold Lim/Black Press)
Four new COVID-19 cases added to Saanich Peninsula Hospital outbreak

Inital round of patient testing is complete, staff testing continues

Mustang Sally and her owner John Ludlow will be seen driving throughout the Comox Valley this Christmas season (and beyond). Photo by Erin Haluschak
Mustang Santa spreading joy, one car ride at a time

Vancouver Islander’s 1966 Ford Mustang Sally transforms for the holiday

12-year-old Ella Smiley captured some video of orcas on a sea lion hunt on Nov. 28 at Kitty Coleman Park, just north of Courtenay. Photo by Ella Smiley
VIDEO: Orcas hunt sea lion off Comox

Young whale watcher captures the action near Kitty Coleman Park

Camp residents were escorted by police into the camp and given about 10 to 15 minutes to gather their belongings and vacate the camp, which is now closed. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
City dismantling Wesley Street homeless encampment after fire

Fire broke out at about 12:15 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 3

Nanaimo RCMP hope the public can help identify a woman driving a Ford pickup who fled the scene following and collision on Wellington Road Tuesday. (File photo)
Nanaimo RCMP seek driver alleged to have fled from hit-and-run

Driver allegedly flees scene after head-on crash between two Ford pickups

A fountain of water spewed from a Courtenay fire hydrant Friday (Dec. 4) morning after it was hit by a vehicle on Fitzgerald Avenue. Photo by CTV Vancouver Island
Vehicle hits hydrant in Courtenay sending fountain of water in the air

Comox Valley RCMP were on scene looking at a vehicle left behind which had extensive damage.

Dennis and Jenny Shorty, from Ross River, Yukon perform with others as Dena Zagi – combining traditional Dena First Nations themes and lyrics with contemporary musical styles. (Courtesy West Coast Reach Association)
National names mingle with Greater Victoria talent for diverse, free concert

Virtual event commemorates Human Solidarity Day, International Day of Persons With Disabilities

A Canada-wide warrant has been issued for Romey O’Neill. (Photo submitted)
Nanaimo RCMP seek man wanted on immigration warrant

Romey O’Neill, 26, rented Kia sedan in Nanaimo, car was later reported stolen

Lake Trail Middle School in Courtenay has closed again due to a threat Friday (Dec 4). File photo
Island middle school closed for the second time in a week due to threat

On Nov. 26, Lake Trail Middle School was closed for a day while a similar incident occurred.

The Klahoose First Nation village on Cortes Island is under lockdown until at least Dec. 7 due to a positive COVID-19 test. Photo courtesy Kevin Peacey.
Klahoose First Nation’s COVID-19 response working

Community testing comes back negative after week of lock down

Swiftsure International Yacht Race 2018. (Black Press Media file photo)
Popular Swiftsure yacht race cancelled for second consecutive year

International sailing race hopes to run its 77th event in 2022

Most Read