The U.S. Parts With Some of a Vaccine Stockpile It Currently Can’t Use | Press "Enter" to skip to content

The U.S. Parts With Some of a Vaccine Stockpile It Currently Can’t Use

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To many Canadians, it seemed decidedly unneighborly. Canada’s initial coronavirus vaccination program moved at a stately pace over the winter, while inoculations in the United States raced ahead. But Washington was unwilling to share any of its stockpile of tens of millions of doses of a vaccine it had yet to approve for use by Americans.

This week, that shifted. After weeks of suggesting that any vaccine diplomacy was well into the future, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said Thursday the United States was planning to share 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine with Canada and 2.5 million doses with Mexico.

[Read: U.S. to Send Millions of Vaccine Doses to Mexico and Canada]

The White House announcement seemed to catch Ottawa officials off guard. Hours passed before Anita Anand, the cabinet minister responsible for buying vaccines, issued a statement that read more like an insurance policy than a note of thanks.

“After numerous discussions with the Biden administration Canada is in the process of finalizing an exchange agreement,” it read in part.

Ms. Anand and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had little more to add on Friday afternoon, saying only that the talks were still underway and that the details would come later.

Ontario’s premier, Doug Ford, appeared to learn about the White House announcement from a reporter’s question during a news conference. His reaction was more effusive.

“That’s what true neighbors do,” he said. “You help each other out in a crisis.”

As he did when publicly pleading with President Biden to release Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines to Canada from a plant in Michigan earlier this year, Mr. Ford offered to personally drive down in his pickup truck to load up the vaccine.

“We can take all the vaccines you can give us,” he said.

From Ms. Psaki’s remarks, it appears that the United States will officially just be lending Canada and Mexico the vaccines. It’s not clear whether they will ultimately have to be replaced in kind or if the loan will be of the forgivable nature. She also said that the United States might soon share surpluses of other vaccines.

To date, all of Canada’s vaccines have come from either Europe or India. While it has been generally reported, based mainly on statements by former President Donald J. Trump when he was in office, that Washington had banned exports of vaccines from American factories, the situation is slightly more nuanced than that.

Ms. Psaki has said that vaccine makers are free to export anything to anywhere, provided that they fulfill their vaccine contracts with the United States government. The vaccine mountain growing in Ohio was created with money from the Defense Production Act. So it belongs to the United States government, not the company.

It was widely predicted last year that the AstraZeneca vaccine, which was developed at the University of Oxford, would be one of the first vaccines to be approved and injected. While it did indeed become the backbone of Britain’s vaccination campaign, my colleagues Noah Weiland and Rebecca Robbins reported before Thursday’s announcement that a series of blunders had soured the company’s relations with American regulators.

[Read: The U.S. Is Sitting on Tens of Millions of Vaccine Doses the World Needs]

Though Canada and more than 70 other countries have approved the AstraZeneca vaccine, the manufacturer hasn’t even applied to the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization. Things have now reached the point, Noah and Rebecca write, that the “United States may only briefly, or never, need the AstraZeneca doses.”

The AstraZeneca vaccine was also the subject of attention this week for another reason. Several European countries suspended its use over a possible connection to blood clots. Canadian officials didn’t share those worries, and late this week the European Medicines Agency declared the vaccine safe.

Aside from a possible new source of supply, the AstraZeneca inoculation received another boost in Canada this week when the federal advisory panel on immunization lifted its previous recommendation that it not be given to people 65 and older.

And after many weeks of sluggish movement, Pfizer and Moderna have both been substantially increasing their shipments to Canada.

While remembering that vaccine production is a tricky business that can easily be slowed or stopped by even the tiniest degree of contamination, spring’s arrival may mitigate Canada’s vaccine discontent.


  • Michael Spavor, one of two Canadians widely viewed as being held hostage by China, was tried for espionage in secret by a Chinese court on Friday. No verdict followed the brief hearing, which Dan Bilefsky and Javier C. Hernández reported was widely condemned as “a sham and a flagrant display of hostage diplomacy.”

  • One of the more prominent woman in the Canadian Armed Forces quit this week and issued a stinging resignation letter in which she said she had been “sickened by ongoing investigations of sexual misconduct among our key leaders.” I spoke with two veterans about their constant struggles with sexual harassment and even sexual assault while in the military and what they want to see emerge from the investigations into the current chief of the defense staff and his predecessor.

  • From a makeshift studio in the basement of his Toronto home, Matt Granite, the Deal Guy, “now streams daily on Amazon Live, sometimes multiple times a day, covering everything from kitchen gadgets to snowblowers,” Jackie Snow writes. “Under each video is a carousel display of the products he’s discussing. When a viewer clicks that item and buys it, Mr. Granite gets a cut.

  • The stealthy F-35 fighter remains in contention as the Canadian Forces’ replacement for its CF-18 jets, despite Mr. Trudeau’s killing of a Conservative purchase proposal and restarting of the selection process. The Times’s editorial board argues that the military in the United States should sharply cut down its purchases of the high-tech, and highly expensive, aircraft.


A native of Windsor, Ontario, Ian Austen was educated in Toronto, lives in Ottawa and has reported about Canada for The New York Times for the past 16 years. Follow him on Twitter at @ianrausten.


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