Canada’s vaccine reserve exceeds 4 million doses, prompting calls for better donation tracking – BoilingNews

The federal government’s central COVID-19 vaccine inventory has far exceeded its target of four million doses in recent months – sometimes by more than triple the amount, according to a CBC analysis.

Global proponents of vaccine stocks say the figures show that Canada kept extra doses in reserve at a time when the demand for booster shots was not yet there and while several lower-income countries were struggling to get vaccines.

When Canada’s vaccination efforts began over the summer, the federal government said it would maintain a reserve of about four million shots that Canadians could access, and any inventory marked as surplus would be donated to other countries.

But an analysis of the federal government’s online archives using the Wayback Machine shows that central vaccine inventory data has not fallen to the limit of four million doses since that promise was made by then-Purchasing Minister Anita Anand on 12 August.

At its lowest, the reserve was 6.5 million doses around mid-November. At its highest, it was at more than 13 million doses, according to federal data.

As of Thursday, the federal reserve sat at about 6.5 million doses.

Federal reserve numbers do not include excess vaccines in provincial or territorial reserves. There are currently 16 million doses in the federal and provincial reserves combined, Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said Wednesday.

The figures highlight that Canada “could definitely do much more” to live up to its promise to support developing countries, said Adam Houston, medical policy and advocacy officer for Médecins Sans Frontières / Médecins Sans Frontières.

“It’s been very worrying at a time of very serious global vaccine inequality,” Houston said. “I think it also underscores the fact that Canada took more than it needed.”

As the Omicron variant spreads across Canada and the world, numerous Canadian doctors and advocates have said getting the world vaccinated is the key to stopping further spread and mutation of coronavirus.

With booster shots now rolling out to more Canadians, Houston and other proponents say the federal government needs to be more transparent about its plans for excess doses and donations to lower-income countries.

Central vaccine inventory

By announcing a donation of 10 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine to low- and middle-income countries last August, Anand promised that the federal government would continue to support developing countries.

“In the future, our government will maintain a reserve of vaccines of approximately four million doses, which will be administered by the Minister [Patty] Hajdu og [Public Health Agency of Canada], in coordination with the provinces and territories, “she said.

“The purpose of the reserve is to ensure that vaccines are available to Canadians when needed, while ensuring that doses are available to other countries.”

Canadian doses identified as surpluses, she said, would be donated to international partners “on an ongoing basis as negotiated and facilitated” by then-International Development Minister Karina Gould.

SE | Federal government promises vaccine reserve ceiling:

The federal government promises a ceiling on the vaccine reserve

Former Purchasing Minister Anita Anand said on August 12 that Canada will maintain a reserve of about four million vaccines that Canadians can access as needed, and said the rest will be used in other countries. 1:38

It is reasonable to have some extra doses on hand as vaccine deliveries and demand do not always match perfectly, said Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious disease doctor at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton and an associate professor at McMaster University.

“But at the same time, having such a large reserve is a problem,” he said. “Not only a problem with the coherence of eight million doses in the federal reserve, and probably more in provincial reserves. There is a problem that these doses must now be administered on our land.”

The World Health Organization and UNICEF officials have said that some countries are receiving surplus vaccines from richer countries that are about to expire, making it difficult to distribute them.

“It grew, and it kept growing, even after vaccine campaigns were curtailed,” Chagla said of the Federal Reserve.

Officials posed alongside Canada’s first donated doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which arrived in three countries in Africa on September 2, 2021. The doses were part of a Canadian pledge to COVAX. (Gavi)

Canada’s promises

Throughout the pandemic, Canada has provided vaccines and financial support to other countries through global efforts such as the COVAX Vaccine Sharing Initiative, which raises funds from richer countries to purchase vaccines for these countries and to ensure low- and middle-income countries also have access.

As of Thursday, Canada has donated more than 9.2 million excess vaccine doses through COVAX. Canada has also shared 762,080 doses of AstraZeneca through bilateral agreements with countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

“One of the big concerns about donation is that Canada has not shared many doses,” Houston said.

“When you think about the fact that much of this time we’ve had more than 10 million doses in the central vaccine inventory alone, it really raises a lot of questions about Canada’s ability to do more.”

As of Thursday, Canada has donated over 9.2 million excess vaccine doses through COVAX. (Rogelio V. Solis / AP Photo)

In a statement, a Health Canada spokesman said that when the vaccine supply is “considered surplus for domestic needs, the Government of Canada is working to donate these doses.”

The statement went on to say that the federal government has worked with provinces and territories to ensure that “adequate supply” is available for vaccination campaigns across the country.

“The Government of Canada is also holding doses on behalf of provinces and territories that have already been allocated for household use, including supplies to support booster campaigns,” the statement said.

Public Services and Procurement Canada postponed the comment to Health Canada.

Need for transparency

Proponents of vaccine capital say Canada needs to be more transparent about what it does with its excess doses in the future, as at least one million doses have already expired here.

“We do not need to have those kinds of stocks of six to 10 million doses more than we need. There’s just a huge risk there – it’s a risk of expiration,” said Julia Anderson, CEO of the Canadian Partnership for Women and Children’s Health, a non-profit, multi-stakeholder organization that aims to enhance Canada’s global influence and reputation.

“Canadians need vaccines to get into arms. And it’s both to get into Canadian arms, but in reality the race now is to get it in arms around the world if you do not want another Omicron that is much more deadly. “

In particular, details like timelines are needed for some of Canada’s promises, proponents say.

“I actually want them to have a mandate, a timeline and a plan to ensure that since vaccines are in surplus, that they will actually be given globally,” said Ananya Tina Banerjee, an assistant professor at McGill University’s School of Population and Global Health and at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health.

“There has to be a zero-excuse approach to addressing this global challenge if Canadians want their lives back,” Anderson said.