(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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The bobsled race has traditionally been a staple event at the carnival. File photo
Upcoming Rossland Winter Carnival cancelled due to COVID-19 crisis

This is the first time the carnival won’t be held in decades

A tender for the project will be sent out on BC Bid. Photo: B.C. Government
Nakusp Elementary School child care centre set to open in May 2022

Conceptual drawings and project timelines for centre have already been complete

People participating at a Remembrance Day event in Nakusp in 2016. Photo: Jillian Trainor
Scaled-down Remembrance Day event to take place in Nakusp

People are asked to physically distance and wear masks if they attend the event

A view of proposed seniors housing on Vernon St. Illustration: City of Nelson/ Vendure Retirement Communities
Nelson seniors housing project to start construction in the spring

Private development on Vernon Street will provide assisted living services as well as housing

test tube with the blood test is on the table next to the documents. Positive test for coronavirus covid-19. The concept of fighting a dangerous Chinese disease.
Interior Health records third COVID-19 death

A new community outbreak was reported at Okanagan Men’s Centre in Lake Country

Over the years, Janice Blackie-Goodine’s home in Summerland has featured elaborate Halloween displays and decorations each October. (File photo)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about Halloween?

Oct. 31 is a night of frights. How much do you know about Halloween customs and traditions?

FILE - In this Jan. 23, 1987 file photo, actor Sean Connery holds a rose in his hand as he talks about his new movie “The Name of the Rose” at a news conference in London. Scottish actor Sean Connery, considered by many to have been the best James Bond, has died aged 90, according to an announcement from his family. (AP Photo/Gerald Penny, File)
Actor Sean Connery, the ‘original’ James Bond, dies at 90

Oscar-winner was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2000

This house at 414 Royal Ave. became notorious for its residents’ and visitors’ penchant for attracting police. It was also the site of a gruesome torture in August 2018. It was demolished in 2019. KTW
6-year sentence for Kamloops man who helped carve ‘rat’ into flesh of fellow gang member

Ricky Dennis was one of three men involved in the August 2018 attack

Cpl. Nathan Berze, media officer for the Mission RCMP, giving an update on the investigation at 11:30 a.m., Oct. 30. Patrick Penner photo.
VIDEO: Prisoner convicted of first-degree murder still at large from Mission Institution

When 10 p.m. count was conducted, staff discovered Roderick Muchikekwanape had disappeared

Among the pumpkin carvings created this year by Rick Chong of Abbotsford is this tribute to fallen officer Cont. Allan Young.
Abbotsford pumpkin carver’s creations include fallen police officer

Rick Chong carves and displays 30 pumpkins every year

An online fundraising campaign in support of the six-year-old boy, Edgar Colby, who was hit by a car on Range Road Oct. 25 has raised more than $62,000 in a day. (Submitted)
$62K raised in 1 day for boy in coma at BC Children’s after being hit by vehicle in Yukon

The boy’s aunt says the family is “very grateful” for the support they’ve received from the community

Health care employees take extensive precautions when working with people infected or suspected of having COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
WorkSafeBC disallows majority of COVID-19 job injury claims

Health care, social services employees filing the most claims

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole rises during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Wednesday October 28, 2020. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Conversion therapy ban gets approval in principle, exposes Conservative divisions

Erin O’Toole himself voted in favour of the bill, as did most Conservative MPs

Most Read