TORONTO — The leader of Canada’s most populous province expressed irritation Thursday with the U.S. refusal to ship vaccines north of the border, saying he’d hoped for a change of stance with a new American president, but it remains “every person for themselves.”
The U.S. so far isn’t allowing locally made vaccines to be exported, so Canada — like the other U.S. neighbor, Mexico — has been forced to get vaccines from Europe and Asia.
“I thought I’d see a little bit of a change with the administration but again it’s every person for themselves out there,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford said.
Ford called the U.S. Canada’s closest ally in the world but said: “You really see who your friends and foes are.”
Like most countries, Canada does not have domestic production and has struggled with an immediate shortage of vaccines to deliver despite having eventual orders for far more than it needs.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has repeatedly raised with President Joe Biden the idea of allowing Canada to buy vaccines produced in the U.S, but Biden’s “first priority” remains “ensuring every American is vaccinated,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki has said.
Psaki said once that is done, the next step is ensuring America’s neighbors, Canada and Mexico, are able to manage the pandemic so that the borders can reopen. The U.S. expects to have enough vaccines by the end of May.
The vaccine shortage is so acute in Canada that provincial governments are now saying they will extend the interval between the two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine to four months rather than three to four weeks so they can quickly inoculate more people.
Canadians 80 and above in the general public are only starting to get vaccinated this month and the National Advisory Committee on Immunization said this week extending the dose interval to four months would allow as many as 80 percent of Canadians over the age of 16 to receive a single dose by the end of June simply with the expected supply of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.
Second doses would begin to be administered in July as more shipments arrive, the panel said.
Canada also faces the prospect of vaccine delivery disruptions from the European Union. A shipment of over a quarter million AstraZeneca vaccines destined for Australia has been blocked from leaving the European Union in the first use of an export control system instituted by the bloc to make sure big pharma companies respect their local contracts.
Story by Rob Gillies.