Canada lends Mexico 5 million doses of H1N1 vaccine; repayment expectedMexico has until the end of March to replace 5 million doses of Swine Flu vaccine on loan from Canada.
By: Helen Branswell, Canadian Press
TORONTO — Canada, which has a large surplus of H1N1 vaccine on its hands, is going to lend some to Mexico, the federal government announced today.
Federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq announced Canada will ship Mexico five million doses of vaccine this week, but expects Mexico to replace the doses by the end of March.
Aglukkaq announced the move in a press release. The Public Health Agency of Canada declined interviews on the decision.
“This is not a donation,” the press release states in the lead paragraph, adding the loan will bridge Mexico until the bulk of its own vaccine purchase is delivered at the end of the month.
“We are privileged that we are in a position to support Mexico’s pandemic response efforts,” Aglukkaq said.
“The immediate response to Mexico’s request by Canada’s federal, provincial and territorial governments serves as testimony to the special relationship that exists between Canada and Mexico.”
Canada bought just over 50 million doses of vaccine in August, when it seemed likely each person would need two doses of vaccine. Studies later showed a single dose is protective for all but young children.
With demand for pandemic vaccine down dramatically both here and internationally, observers have been wondering what the country would do with a surplus that could top 30 million doses.
And they have been puzzled as to why the country has not made a contribution to a vaccine stockpile the World Health Organization is amassing for redistribution to developing countries that don’t have vaccine contracts.
“If you really want to hold a mirror up to our nation, you might ask the question why we’re lending and not just giving,” Dr. Ross Upshur, head of the University of Toronto’s Joint Centre for Bioethics, said when he heard the news.
“What does that say about us? We’re not using the vaccine that we have, we’ve got a surplus, but we’re not big enough just to simply give?”
The Public Health Agency estimates that between 40 and 45 per cent of Canadians have been vaccinated. While that rate is among the highest internationally, it still leaves tens of millions of doses of vaccine unclaimed.
The decision comes at a time when a number of countries with vaccine are scrambling to find ways to deal with large surpluses. The Netherlands, Spain, France and Germany are among those that have publicly acknowledged they are looking to either sell excess vaccine or scale back their orders.
The Netherlands has already sold surplus doses. And in recent days, France has announced it is cancelling more than half of its original order of 94 million doses. Reports suggest France is also negotiating to sell vaccine to countries in the Middle East and Central America.