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Ottawa pledges millions more in support for global vaccine-sharing program after criticism

Canada under fire for being only G7 country to tap supply from COVAX
Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

Ottawa is upping its pledge to support COVAX following weeks of criticism over dipping into the global pool created to assist poorer countries’ COVID-19 vaccine supply.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau revealed Friday (Feb. 19) combined funding for both COVAX as well as the ACT Accelerator now totals $940 million.

This new total comes as the federal government earmarked an additional $75 million toward COVAX following a virtual meeting earlier in the day with G7 leaders.

Canada has faced criticism the past few weeks after it was revealed it would be accepting at least 1.9 million vaccine doses through to June from the COVAX pool, a global sharing program meant to ensure poor countries are able to access vaccine doses.

COVAX allows richer countries to secure doses for both themselves and for poorer countries to ensure a more equitable distribution of vaccine across the world.

So far Canada is the only G7 country tapping doses from that pool.

Trudeau previously defended the decision earlier this month, noting that COVAX allows countries to invest half their funding into vaccine doses for poorer countries, while the other half goes to richer countries contributing to the pool.

“There is a need to accelerate the vaccination, particularly vulnerable peoples around the world and the G7 is committed to looking at ways to do just that. Not just by donating money to COVAX but by looking at allocations of vaccines,” Trudeau said during a media briefing in Ottawa.

“We will make decisions in the best interest of Canadians every step of the way.”

The country has been dealing with vaccine shortages in recent weeks amid shipping delays from Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc.

Meanwhile, federal officials have confirmed over the past week that Pfizer and Moderna are set to deliver the previously agreed-upon doses — six million in total from both manufacturers — by the end of March before another 23 million doses are delivered in the spring.

Trudeau also announced the federal government was extending the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) and the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB) by 12 weeks, allowing for the new maximum claim for those benefits to total 38 weeks.

The CRB assists workers who are out of work due to COVID-19 but are not eligible for employment insurance, while the CRCB offers assistance to those out of work because they must care for a loved one.

The prime minister also revealed the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit is being extended from two weeks to four weeks.

“No one should be going to work sick right now,” Trudeau said.