In this Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019 file photo, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, left, welcomes Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during official arrivals for a NATO leaders meeting at The Grove hotel and resort in Watford, Hertfordshire, England. (AP-Francisco Seco)

In this Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019 file photo, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, left, welcomes Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during official arrivals for a NATO leaders meeting at The Grove hotel and resort in Watford, Hertfordshire, England. (AP-Francisco Seco)

Trudeau pledges more cash as G7 leaders discuss wider COVID-19 vaccine distribution

Canada has pledged $220 million to COVAX and another $865 million to the ACT Accelerator

The federal government has agreed to top up its funding for vaccine rollouts in lower-income countries, pledging $75 million more to the COVAX international vaccine-sharing program as other wealthy countries step up their commitment.

The announcement comes as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson hosts Justin Trudeau and their G7 counterparts for a virtual leaders’ summit aimed at bringing renewed momentum to COVID-19 vaccine distribution.

Johnson confirmed Britain will be sending all of its surplus doses to the COVAX Facility, a development that could place Trudeau in a hot seat because Canada is the only G7 country using its membership in the program to get extra vaccines for its own population.

The Liberals have been under fire from international organizations and some opposition parties for the decision to accept 1.9 million doses of vaccine from COVAX for domestic use in Canada by the end of June.

Trudeau has defended the decision on the grounds that countries that contribute to COVAX are allowed to receive vaccines of their own and he has noted that Canada is one of the leading contributors to the globalprogram.

COVAX is a partnership created last year under the World Health Organization to help deliver billions of expensive vaccine doses to countries that can’t afford them.

Canada has pledged $220 million to COVAX and another $865 million to the ACT Accelerator, which tries to ensure low- and middle-income countries have equitable access to medical treatments during the pandemic. Britain has pledged $971 million to COVAX.

The $75 million in additional funds are also bound for the Accelerator program, said Guillaume Dumas, press secretary to International Development Minister Karina Gould.

The announcement comes the same day as the European Union’s executive commission promised to double its contribution to one billion euros.

“We will only be safe if the whole world is safe,” said Ursula Von der Leyen, the European Commission’s president, in a statement before the leaders of the G7 gathered in a virtual meeting Friday.

Canada has faced shortfalls in deliveries of vaccines in recent weeks, but Trudeau has said they are scheduled to ramp up again. He also says it is too soon to say what Canada will do with any excess vaccines, but that Canada is committed to helping end the pandemic everywhere because that is in Canada’s interest.

Johnson, who himself became seriously ill after contracting COVID-19 last year, is using Britain’s presidency of the G7 this year to drive a health plan that would enable the speedy creation of new vaccines to combat other deadly diseases and pandemics that might emerge in the future.

Johnson wants the G7 to endorse a target to cut the time to develop new vaccines by two-thirds, from 300 days to 100 days.

Canada’s top-up comes as welcome news to advocacy groups.

“Today’s new investment comes at the right time: the pandemic does not end until it ends everywhere, so investing to ensure everyone has access to vaccines and other tools is smart,” Stuart Hickox, director of the One Campaign anti-poverty organization’s Canadian chapter, said in an email.

The organization is asking Ottawa to commit to investing one per cent of its emergency COVID-19 spending in the global fight against the pandemic.

“More work needs to be done, but the Trudeau government is on the right path,” Hickox said.

Johnson wants the WHO and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, or CEPI, to find ways to speed up vaccine development as well as treatments and tests for common pathogens.

“Perhaps more than ever, the hopes of the world rest on the shoulders of scientists and over the last year, like countless times before, they have risen to the challenge,” Johnson said in a pre-summit statement.

“The development of viable coronavirus vaccines offers the tantalizing prospect of a return to normality, but we must not rest on our laurels. As leaders of the G7 we must say today: never again,” he added.

“By harnessing our collective ingenuity, we can ensure we have the vaccines, treatments and tests to be battle-ready for future health threats, as we beat COVID-19 and build back better together.”

Johnson also wants G7 leaders to support a new treaty on pandemic preparedness that would be administered through the WHO.

The meeting will be the first G7 leaders’ meeting since last April, when they convened for an emergency virtual gathering as the pandemic was sweeping the globe.

The regular 2020 annual leaders’ summit, which was to have been hosted by former U.S. president Donald Trump, was ultimately scrapped as America battled with a surging death count due to COVID-19.

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

federal governmentJustin Trudeau

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

Just Posted

Cat defenders Kimberly Feeny (left) and Zeke Sijohn (centre) stand beside Councillor Neil Krog after signing a lease at city hall for the Boundary Helping Hands’ cat shelter. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Grand Forks’ city hall leases vacant home for cat shelter

Boundary Helping Hands’ Chair Kimberly Feeny said the shelter hopes to start adopting cats soon

Christopher Blair McLean appeared at the Grand Forks courthouse on Wednesday, March 3. File photo
Greenwood man won’t stand trial for alleged city assault

The man was awaiting trial in Grand Forks

Grand Forks’ Gary Smith stands in front of his Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster float. Photo: Submitted
Flying Spaghetti Monster leader still boiling over driver’s licence photo

Gary Smith, head of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster of B.C., said he has since spoken to lawyers

Midway’s Boundary Expo Recreation Centre (above) is a mainstay of the local community and the Boundary area more broadly, according to Village officials. Photo: Submitted
West Boundary arena to get equipment overhaul thanks to provincial grant

The funds are being put toward new refrigeration equipment at Midway’s Boundary Expo Rec. Centre

A member of the Avalanche Canada South Rockies field team gathers important snowpack data that is used to produce daily avalanche forecasts for the region. Photo by Jennifer Coulter.
Warming temperatures increase avalanche risk heading into the weekend

Warm temperatures impact conditions, human behaviour

Thursday, Feb. 4: RDKB Chief Engineer Darryl Funk hoists a banner commemorating last year’s championship season by the Bantam House Bruins. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Bantam Bruins honoured at hair-raising banner ceremony at Grand Forks’ Jack Goddard Arena

Asst. coach Mike Tollis said he reluctantly gave in to the team’s victory wish that he cut his pony tale

The B.C. Supreme Court ruled Feb. 26 that the estate of deceased Sooke man and Hells Angels prospect Michael Widner is to be divided between his wife and his secret spouse. (Black Press Media file photo)
Estate of deceased Vancouver Island Hells Angels prospect to be divided between wife and secret spouse

Michael Widner’s 2017 death left a number of unanswered questions

This Dec. 2, 2020 photo provided by Johnson & Johnson shows vials of its Janssen subsidiary’s COVID-19 vaccine in the United States. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Johnson & Johnson via AP
Canada approves Johnson & Johnson’s 1-shot COVID-19 vaccine

It is the 4th vaccine approved in Canada and the 1st that requires just a single dose

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky, father of the Great One, dies at 82

Canada’s hockey dad had battled Parkinson’s disease and other health issues

Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne speaks in the B.C. legislature, March 4, 2021. (Hansard TV)
B.C. Liberals, NDP sing in harmony on local election reforms

Bill regulates paid canvassers, allows people in condo buildings

(National Emergency Management Agency)
No tsunami risk to B.C. from powerful New Zealand earthquake: officials

An 8.1 magnitude earthquake shook the north of New Zealand Thursday morning

(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
Pandemic stress, isolation key factors as to why Canadians turned to cannabis, alcohol

Study found that isolation played key role in Canadians’ substance use

Most Read