Health organizations and professionals call on Government of Canada to live up to commitments on vaccine equity
In an open letter to Prime Minister Trudeau, 30 health organizations and 644 health professionals are calling on the Government of Canada to dedicate more resources to supporting the equitable global supply of vaccines.
The letter calls on the Government of Canada to take three specific actions:
- Support the temporary waiver of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement in relation to products and technologies related to the prevention, treatment or containment of COVID-19, as proposed by India and South Africa to the World Trade Organization (WTO).
- Get shots into arms now by supplying surplus vaccine doses via COVAX through predictable and scheduled donations where timelines and quantities are transparently available to recipient countries and the public. These donations of vaccines must be accompanied by assistance with cold chain, logistics and supplies for countries that require them.
- Improve future vaccine supply via increases in the number of sustainable, geographically-diverse vaccine manufacturing facilities. The Government of Canada is encouraged to use all means available to actively encourage the permanent suspension of intellectual property rights related to COVID-19 vaccines as well as other medical products, devices, equipment, and materials and components that would facilitate their manufacture and distribution. In the future, taxpayer-funded research into vaccines should be undertaken with a commitment to ensure the most equitable public benefit possible as innovations are brought to market.
The letter’s signatories, all health-focused workers and organizations, have been at the forefront of the battle against COVID-19 for almost two years, while also providing care through extreme heat events, wildfire-related evacuations and smoke, and severe flooding. They desperately need to know that their federal government is doing everything in its power to help bring this worldwide pandemic under control and has an understanding of the planetary context within which COVID-19 is situated. The actions we take now will reduce the impacts of the current pandemic as well as set precedents for the equitable and effective management of future global health emergencies.
“The emergence of the Omicron variant demonstrates that the world remains vulnerable to COVID-19 as long as most people on the globe do not have access to vaccines. Canada has fallen short in delivering on those commitments and frequently provides inadequate notice and insufficient associated supplies for low-resource health settings to be able to get shots into arms in an orderly fashion before vaccine expiry dates.”
Executive Director, Canadian Public Health Association
“We need an approach to pharmaceutical security that takes both COVID-19 and Climate change into account. This year's heat-related deaths, catastrophic wildfires, and devastating floods have posed challenges to logistical supply chains and healthcare provision. Climate change is also already driving changes in infectious disease patterns. To ensure pharmaceutical supply through the many waves of challenge we will face in coming years we must shift to a system where vaccines, diagnostics and other therapeutics are treated as a global public good, instead of products to be sold for maximal profit.”
Dr Courtney Howard, MD, CCFP-EM
Emergency Physician, Yellowknife
Clinical Associate Professor, Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary
Community Research Fellow, Planetary Health, Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research, York University
Immediate Past-President, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment
“Canada continues to drag its feet internationally. While the United States has joined countries like India and South Africa in a call for a time limited waiver of TRIPS, our government remains an obstacle to progress. Access to live-saving vaccines cannot wait.”
Dr. Danyaal Raza, MD, MPH, CCFP
Family Physician, Toronto
Assistant Professor, Department of Family & Community Medicine, University of Toronto
Policy Fellow, Broadbent Institute
Past Chair, Canadian Doctors for Medicare
“Nurses know that zoonotic illnesses will only increase as a result of climate change. It is essential that we apply a lens of social justice to COVID-19 measures and recognize that global vaccine equity is our most effective tool to end this pandemic.”
Helen Boyd, RN, MA
British Columbia Representative
Canadian Association of Nurses for the Environment