As part of global efforts to provide COVID-19 medicines to poor countries, the Canadian Government has released $485 million foreign-aid budget, International Development Minister Karina Gould has announced.
The Minister clarified that the new funds are going towards the Access to COVID-19 Tools, or “ACT” Accelerator, which was created in April by the World Health Organization, the French government, the European Commission and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Gould and Procurement Minister Anita Anand also left open the possibility that if Canada has any surpluses of vaccines it has already pre-bought, they could be shared with poorer countries.
While noting that with only one vaccine currently approved by Health Canada, it’s too early to make that determination, Gould said “We are part of a global community, and our health at home depends on the health of everyone everywhere. Canadians understand that no one is safe from COVID-19 unless everyone is safe, and today’s new commitments will help to make that possible,” said Gould.
Anand said Gould’s announcement “is a promise to help other countries when we will be able to do so.”
Official records have it that Canada has secured guarantees for 214 million doses of vaccine, if all seven vaccine candidates procured are approved. It has also negotiated the potential to get another 200 million doses.
In an exemplary development, Oxfam Canada released a report that said Canada topped the list of rich countries that have pre-bought COVID-19 vaccines, having secured enough to cover its population five times over. Oxfam urged Canadians to show more compassion to poorer people.
Oxfam Canada’s interim executive director Kate Higgins said the organization was “pleased to see Canada take additional and ongoing leadership to ensure that everyone on the planet has access to the COVID-19 vaccine.”
The director also noted that “the only way we will get vaccines for everyone is for pharmaceutical corporations to openly share their technology and intellectual property. We hope Canada will continue to push for this as well.”
In a swift reaction, the advocacy group One Campaign, which has criticized Canada’s relatively low foreign aid spending in the past, offered effusive praise.
Speaking on the development, Stuart Hickox, the Canada director for One Campaign, succinctly remarked that the announcement marked a “great day” for Canada.
While noting that every $1 spent on aid would generate a $5.60 return to Canada’s economy, he said “As COVID vaccinations begin here, Canada is also showing global leadership in the fight to end the pandemic everywhere. Today’s investment is Canadian compassion in action. It’s also smart”.
On his part, President of World Vision Canada, Michael Messenger stated that where a child is born shouldn’t have an impact on whether they get access to a life-saving vaccine.
He said “It’s a human right,” adding that “This commitment will help to make sure that girls and boys living in the most fragile parts of the world benefit from the great work of some of the smartest people and latest technology. This is how we will end this pandemic together.”
It should be noted that the ACT Accelerator is part of a global effort to ensure low- and middle-income countries have equitable access to medical treatments during the pandemic.
It supports organizations, health professionals and businesses in their efforts to develop vaccines, as well as drug therapies and diagnostic tools to battle the pandemic.
With the latest development, Canada has now committed more than $865 million to the ACT-Accelerator and has also pledged $220 million to its partner initiative, the COVAX Facility, to help buy vaccine doses for low- and middle-income countries.