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The time to act is now: Vaccines for poor countries

Dear Anita Vandenbeld,

Now that vaccines are rolling out here in Canada, it’s time Canadians and their representatives turned their attention to ensuring that citizens in poor countries around the world are vaccinated as quickly as possible. 

An internally displaced Afghan family on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan; People enjoying the sunshine in Ottawa. PHOTO BY OMAR SOBHANI/REUTERS; ASHLEY FRASER/POSTMEDIA
An internally displaced Afghan family on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan; People enjoying the sunshine in Ottawa. PHOTO BY OMAR SOBHANI/REUTERS; ASHLEY FRASER/POSTMEDIA

Currently, there are not enough vaccines to quickly inoculate high priority groups in poor countries. Canada’s vaccine plan puts vaccinations for all Canadians, even low-risk groups, ahead of the most vulnerable in poor countries. This is inhumane and even dangerous. 

By putting ourselves first, we are increasing the risk that more variants develop, some of which could evade our vaccines completely. As Hilda Bastian, the Australian expert in analyzing clinical trial data and founding member of the Cochrane Collaboration says: 

“We need to reduce the chances of the virus morphing into more dangerous variants — vaccines might not protect communities enough from new variants sweeping through. The notion that there can be countries where there’s going to be 40-year-olds and 30-year-olds vaccinated while there are terrible outbreaks in other parts of the world, and even the health care practitioners are unprotected, isn’t okay on any level.”

Given the limits on the number of vaccines doses that can be produced this year, wealthy countries like Canada are putting citizens of poorer countries at risk for severe illness and death while we put our low-risk citizens first. 

Canada has an obligation as a wealthy nation to help prevent this tragic outcome. 

The time to act is now. The Liberal government must reverse its decision to keep 50% of the COVAX vaccines and ensure that all doses go to poor countries. It must also look beyond that program and donate a portion of all vaccines to ensure that seniors, healthcare professionals and other vulnerable citizens in poor countries are vaccinated as quickly as possible.

Sincerely,

Jennifer Dales

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