Heading into summer, wealthy developed nations such as Canada and the United States are at the height of their vaccine rollout for people above the age of 12 years. However, the rest of the poorer and developing world struggles with even getting their frontline workers “the jab”. This would not be the case if COVAX was working as it was intended.

COVAX is the vaccination pillar of the ACT Accelerator, which was designed to provide funding for testing, treatment, and vaccinations to all countries equitably, during the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, it was only co-founded by the World Health Organization (WHO) a month into the pandemic. The month before COVAX was founded, many developed nations invested in multiple drug companies such as Moderna and Pfizer. They financed research and secured doses before they were even discovered.

These countries pre-paid several pharmaceutical companies directly for an amount of vaccines that would inoculate their populations many times over. They did this because they knew that some companies’ vaccines would not make it to the final phases of testing. If only a handful of companies were successful at creating a vaccine, then these developed nations would have their vaccine supply secured regardless of the unsuccessful vaccines. With approved vaccines from Moderna, Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, there now is a surplus of vaccines earmarked for developed nations, and these nations will be prioritized for future doses. However, poorer and developing nations have not been able to benefit from this surplus of vaccines. ‘Vaccine nationalism‘ has been on the rise as more developed nations move to vaccinate their own populations before making an effort to help the global rollout.

This has left many developing nations, along with COVAX, struggling to secure vaccine supplies.

Annamie Paul, Federal Green Party leader

“Surging cases and new mutations are a reminder that, unless vaccines are shared equitably, it could be years before #COVID19 is brought under control globally. Until it is, people in Canada will not be safe. Ensuring the success of #COVAX is more important than ever.”

Federal Green Party Leader Annamie Paul on Twitter

In a recent correspondence between Global Affairs Canada and Global Green News (GNN), Global Affairs Canada said:

“Canada recognizes that as long as individuals are vulnerable to COVID-19 anywhere, there is a risk to populations everywhere. To date, Canada has announced a total of $1.3 billion to the ACT-Accelerator, which includes substantial commitments to treatments and diagnostics alongside contributions to the COVAX Advanced Market Commitment (AMC) to finance the procurement of doses for low and middle-income countries. Canada’s support for the ACT-Accelerator includes $545 million for vaccine procurement, distribution and delivery for all 92 low- and middle-income countries through the COVAX AMC.”

They then went on to say:, “Canada is committed to a robust global effort to stop COVID-19 and address its devastating health, social, economic and security impacts on people around the world.”

In February, Canada became one of the only G-7 countries to take vaccines from COVAX when their supplies were low. Now Canada along with many G-7 and wealthy countries have pledged to supply around one billion vaccines worldwide by the end of next year through COVAX. 500 million doses will come from the United States and 100 million will come from Canada.

Some may be concerned that these donations will affect Canadians’ ability to access vaccines. However, according to Global News, an anonymous Canadian Government source emphasized that these vaccine donations will not impact the domestic vaccine rollout.

Map showing % of vaccinated people by country as of June 11th 2020 (Source: Our World in Data)

Reacting to this news, Federal Green Party leader, Annamie Paul said in a press conference on parliament hill Thursday:

“As long as the government of Canada commits to donating a specific amount of doses by a specific timeline and one that corresponds with a timeline that COVAX has asked for, which is that they need a massive injection of doses before the end of this month, then we will certainly be happy, we will certainly be celebrating, and we will certainly by thanking the Prime Minister.“

“We also want to make sure that there is a calendar for global vaccination that comes out of the G7 summit. Particularly we want to see a firm commitment about how many doses will be given to COVAX, how many doses will be distributed globally and how many of those doses will be in arms before the G20 summit in October.”

COVAX’s original plan was to donate two billion doses worldwide by the end of 2021. However, due to vaccine shortages this goal has been changed to 1.8 billion doses delivered by early 2022. While these vaccine donations will make a difference, it is still not even close to the 11 billion doses recommended by the WHO to fully vaccinate 70% of the world’s population.

Mark Harracksingh

Mark is a final year undergraduate student at Concordia University in a specialization in environmental science. He was born and raised in Trinidad. He moved to Montreal to pursue a higher education and career in the environmental field. He has a strong interest in global politics and social justice.

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