Canada is donating all 10 million doses of the single-dose vaccine that it purchased from Johnson & Johnson but won’t use to low- and middle-income countries.
Procurement Minister Anita Anand announced the donation through the COVAX vaccine-sharing alliance on Thursday as many developing nations continue to struggle with a shortage of shots.
“This donation is on top of the the $2.5 billion in financial support that Canada has committed to international efforts to combat COVID-19 and Canada’s support for the developing world will continue going forward,” Anand said during a briefing Thursday.
The government says it will maintain a reserve of about four million vaccines for Canadians to access as needed, but Anand said the rest will be used in other countries.
“Canadian doses that are identified as surplus will be donated to international partners on an ongoing basis as negotiated and facilitated by Karina [Gould, minister of international development) and her team.”
Johnson & Johnson never used in Canada
Health Canada authorized the J&J vaccine in early March, but it has never been used in this country.
The only shipment for 330,000 doses delivered in late April was held in quarantine for months because of concerns of possible tainting at a production facility in Baltimore.
Health Canada ultimately determined the doses couldn’t be verified and returned them to the company.
Now, with a surplus of vaccines from other manufacturers, Anand said, Canada will redirect its J&J shots to countries in need.
Nearly 14 million doses of the one-shot vaccine have been administered in the United States, the result of a partnership between J&J and its European subsidiary Janssen, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Public health experts have called on Canada and other rich countries to dramatically scale up the amount of vaccine it contributes to developing nations or else risk the development of even more coronavirus variants that could arise and then be unwittingly exported to Canada.
“Around the world, millions are still unvaccinated and unprotected against COVID-19, and in low-income countries, only two per cent of the population has received one dose,” Gould said, adding that Canada’s contribution to COVAX now constitutes 40 million doses, in addition to monetary contributions.
The federal government announced last month that it would donate nearly 18 million doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, which has also been phased out of Canada’s vaccination efforts, to poorer countries.