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The US can, should do more to help Canada through COVID-19: vaccine specialist

The United States can and must do more to help Canadians get vaccinated against COVID-19, said a prominent Texas doctor, increasing pressure on the White House to do more than America’s borders to end the pandemic.

Dr. Peter Hotez, a vaccine specialist and a familiar face for cable news viewers in both countries, says the United States has more than enough capacity to expand its largely successful vaccination efforts in neighboring countries, including the Canada.

In an interview on Monday with The Canadian Press, Hotez said he assumed – like many Americans – that Canada was essentially accompanying the United States in terms of getting the protection its citizens need.

Then he looked at the numbers.

“I was really surprised – only about a third of the country received a single dose and, essentially, no one was fully vaccinated,” said Hotez, who is dean of the school of tropical medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

“I cannot believe that the United States is not helping, since the amount of doses we would have to provide is relatively modest (and it is) unrelated to the fact that it is in our own enlightened interest to do so. “

Hotez called it “ridiculous” to think that virus transmission would be stopped by vaccinating Detroit without vaccinating Windsor, Ontario, which is on the other side of the Ambassador Bridge, on the other side of the Detroit River.

And the approximately 38 million Canadians represent a fraction of the 332 million inhabitants of the United States, a “rounding error” in terms of the number of vaccine doses that would be needed, he added.

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“What I mean is that there are emotional reasons for doing it and pragmatic reasons for doing it.”

Canada, however, is not the only country that needs help.

Mexico, which also borders the United States, is doing significantly worse than Canada in vaccinating its 130 million residents. And the terrible tragedy of a new wave in India, coupled with growing concern for Brazil, is putting the White House under intense pressure to present itself.

Canada and Mexico are eyeing a growing American surplus of Oxford-AstraZeneca doses approved for use in these countries, but not at US White House press secretary Jen Psaki, said a decision on how best to share those doses is in progress.

“We have received a number of requests from around the world and we are evaluating these needs now, but I cannot anticipate this process,” said Psaki.

Hotez said these doses would have only a marginal impact in India, a country of 1.4 billion people where the virus has gone out of control in recent weeks, overwhelming hospitals and depleting supplies of basic needs like oxygen.

“India’s is a more complicated issue – yes, we should supply doses, but the real priority for India is a little bit different because of the scope,” he said.

“It’s not that we shouldn’t do that. It has to go much further than that. “

The United States is already helping India with raw materials and parts for vaccine production equipment and is still deciding how to distribute its excess doses of AstraZeneca, President Joe Biden said on Tuesday.

“We will, until July 4th, send about 10 percent of what we have to other nations,” said Biden, not to mention specific countries in addition to the 4 million doses of AstraZeneca already shared with Mexico and Canada.

The United States will soon start sharing doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines beyond its borders as well, he promised.

“As long as there is a problem anywhere in the world, even if we solve it here, we will act as quickly as possible to get as many doses of Moderna and Pfizer as possible and export them around the world.”

A growing chorus of international voices, including progressive lawmakers in the U.S., is asking Biden to agree to a proposal before the World Trade Organization that would facilitate patent and intellectual property protections, allowing developing countries to accelerate their own manufacturing efforts. vaccines.

The powerful American pharmaceutical industry is opposed to such a move, fearing an existential threat to a profitable business model.

“We are at war with the virus, but what we see is profit from the war; we are seeing that profits are being poured into people, ”Congressman Jan Schakowsky, a Democrat from Illinois, said in a panel discussion on Tuesday.

“The World Health Organization said that there were a billion doses of vaccines distributed, but only 0.3 percent of those doses went to poor and developing countries. And that is totally unacceptable. “

Schakowsky and others are supporting an offer from India and South Africa to waive a 27-year WTO agreement that essentially protects the secrets of the pharmaceutical trade, a movement that has been gradually gaining momentum in recent weeks.

Brajendra Navnit, India’s ambassador to the WTO, made a strong appeal on Tuesday for the so-called waiver of TRIPS, insisting that the financial cost of sharing the information would be recouped tenfold in the resulting economic recovery.

“Anyone thinking that India’s example showed this? we are saved by vaccinating its own population, it will not happen, ”said Navnit.

“We saw it in measles, we saw it in smallpox, we saw it recently in polio that only when you do the global immunization, only then can you get rid of the virus.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged the no-one-is-safe-until-everyone-is-safe argument on Tuesday, but stopped
without saying whether Canada would vote in favor of the proposed exemption.

“We understand the importance of bringing vaccines to the most vulnerable around the world and we will continue to work towards that,” he said.

Biden, who promised during the election campaign that the United States would share its vaccine know-how with the world, also contested: “We will decide this as we go.”

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