A cameraman records as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden participate in a virtual joint statement in Ottawa on February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

A cameraman records as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden participate in a virtual joint statement in Ottawa on February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

White House confirms Canada asked for vaccine help, won’t say if U.S. has agreed

Canada, a country without its own domestic manufacturing pipeline, has been lagging in its vaccination efforts

Canada has indeed asked the United States for help in procuring doses of COVID-19 vaccines, but the White House refused to say Wednesday whether it has agreed to the request.

Press secretary Jen Psaki was responding to reports about Canada and Mexico clamouring for surplus doses — including one from Bloomberg News that the two countries would top the list when the time comes.

“We have received requests from both Mexico and Canada and are considering those requests carefully,” Psaki said.

“I don’t have any update for you on whether they will be granted and a timeline for that.”

Instead, she repeated the long-standing White House position that President Joe Biden first wants to ensure that every American who wants to can get vaccinated, and that it happen as soon as possible.

“We are still in the midst of fighting the war against the pandemic, right here,” Psaki said, acknowledging the U.S. is currently leading the world in getting its residents vaccinated.

That’s largely because of the country’s virtually unrivalled capacity for developing and manufacturing vaccines, which has been almost exclusively focused on meeting domestic demand.

But the international responsibility that comes with that manufacturing capacity is not lost on Biden, who also understands the importance of getting people vaccinated around the world, Psaki said.

“The president wants to be, we all want to be, contributing members of the global community and getting the pandemic under control,” she said.

“Any decision we make about requests … will ensure that we’re able to still quickly vaccinate the American people, as that remains our top priority.”

Canada, a country devoid of its own domestic manufacturing pipeline, has been lagging in its vaccination efforts, thanks in part to lingering production problems. Export controls in Europe, which have so far not affected Canada’s shipments, are a potential threat.

The bottlenecks are only beginning to clear. Health Canada says more than 8.5 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are scheduled to arrive in Canada over the next eight weeks.

Shipments of the two-dose Moderna vaccine have not been confirmed past the end of March, while a delivery date has yet to materialize for the other two vaccines — the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot and a single-dose option from Johnson & Johnson.

The Serum Institute of India is to ship another million doses of its version of the AstraZeneca vaccine next month, with an additional 500,000 in May, but it is not clear when those will arrive.

Canada is also counting on an additional 1.6 million doses of AstraZeneca being shipped from a production facility in South Korea before the end of May.

In the weeks since last month’s virtual meeting between Biden and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, cabinet ministers in Ottawa have been liaising electronically with their American counterparts to reinforce what both sides have been billing as a new era in Canada-U.S. relations.

On Wednesday, it was François-Phillippe Champagne, Canada’s minister of innovation, science and industry, who raised the subject of vaccines with U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.

“When you’re talking about strengthening North American supply chains, by implication you have to talk about medical supply chains — whether it’s the manufacturing of essential medical supplies or vaccines,” Champagne said in an interview.

“It is something that I raised in terms of making sure that we work together to ensure the health and safety of people on both sides of the border.”

It’s also likely to be a key variable when the time comes to begin the process of reopening the Canada-U.S. border, which has been closed for a full year to all but essential travel and trade.

Vaccination, Champagne said, is “the best way to ensure the health and safety of the people and eventually be in a position to reopen the economy.”

“I think what you see is a renewed sense, or renewed spirit of co-operation and collaboration, to protect the health and safety of people on both sides, but also to foster jobs and growth on both sides of the border.”

James McCarten, The Canadian Press

CoronavirusUSAvaccines

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

Just Posted

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada has secured through a deal with the Serum Institute of India in partnership with Verity Pharma at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
Alberta begins rolling out AstraZeneca COVID vaccine for those aged 40 or older

There are more than 70 pharmacies offering AstraZeneca, including 26 offering walk-in appointments

A child writes in their school notebook during a home schooling session in Cremona, Alta., Monday, March 23, 2020, amid the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. Thousands of students in Calgary will shift to online learning as of today in a bid to curb rising COVID-19 infection rates in the city. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Online classes begin for some Alberta students amid rising COVID-19 cases

Alberta currently has the highest rate of active COVID-19 cases in the country

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada secured. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio
Alberta joins Ontario in lowering minimum age for AstraZeneca vaccine

More than 700,000 doses of AstraZeneca have been administered in this country

Asymptomatic testing will now be available for "priority groups" who are most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable or at-risk populations. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS
Alberta identifies 1,516 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday

Central zone has 1,849 active cases

Image/ Metro Creative Connection
County of Wetaskiwin responds to Alberta Energy Regulator’s decision on Directive 067.

On April 7, 2021 the Alberta Energy Regular (AER) announced a new edition of Directive 067.

In this image from NASA, NASA’s experimental Mars helicopter Ingenuity lands on the surface of Mars Monday, April 19, 2021. The little 4-pound helicopter rose from the dusty red surface into the thin Martian air Monday, achieving the first powered, controlled flight on another planet. (NASA via AP)
VIDEO: NASA’s Mars helicopter takes flight, 1st for another planet

The $85 million helicopter demo was considered high risk, yet high reward

The Rogers logo is photographed in Toronto on Monday, September 30, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tijana Martin
Rogers investigating after wireless customers complain of widespread outage

According to Down Detector, problems are being reported in most major Canadian cities

People are shown at a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Sunday, April 18, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Nothing stopping provinces from offering AstraZeneca vaccine to all adults: Hajdu

Health Canada has licensed the AstraZeneca shot for use in people over the age of 18

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday December 8, 2020 in Ottawa. The stage is set for arguably the most important federal budget in recent memory, as the Liberal government prepares to unveil its plan for Canada’s post-pandemic recovery even as a third wave of COVID-19 rages across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Election reticence expected to temper political battle over federal budget

Opposition parties have laid out their own demands in the weeks leading up to the budget

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

A vial of some of the first 500,000 AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada secured. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio
Canada’s 2nd blood clot confirmed in Alberta after AstraZeneca vaccine

The male patient, who is in his 60s, is said to be recovering

The funeral of Britain’s Prince Philip in Windsor, England, on Saturday, April 17, 2021. Philip died April 9 at the age of 99. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP)
PHOTOS: Prince Philip laid to rest Saturday as sombre queen sits alone

The entire royal procession and funeral took place out of public view within the grounds of Windsor Castle

Most Read