Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sought to reassure Canadians today that vaccine shots will continue to arrive even as the European Union threatens protectionist measures to limit the export of doses abroad.
The EU is poised to impose export controls on vaccines leaving the 27-member bloc to ensure supply on the continent. The proposal would require companies to seek approval before shipping vaccines to countries like Canada.
“Europe is determined to contribute to this global common good but it also means business,” Ursula von der Leyen, the German president of the European Commission, said in a video statement late Monday.
Trudeau was asked this morning for his reaction to the prospect of the EU limiting the number of shots shipped from the Pfizer plant in Puurs, Belgium.
“That will be very disturbing, of course,” Trudeau said in French. “We are communicating with our partners in Europe to make sure the contracts signed by Canada are respected.”
Trudeau said he received assurances this morning from Stéphane Bancel, the CEO of Moderna, that that company will meet its promised delivery timelines — 230,400 doses are slated to arrive next week.
That doesn’t really mean much, since the company produces its shots in Switzerland and the U.S. states of Massachusetts and New Hampshire — places that would be beyond EU export controls.
The Pfizer product has been the workhorse of the global vaccination effort so far; the company has shipped many more vaccine doses than Moderna, and more often. But deliveries to Canada will grind to a halt this week as a temporary shutdown at Pfizer’s plant in Belgium disrupts its shipments.
Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand said earlier in the day that she doesn’t think a protectionist push by the EU or others will help the global fight against the pandemic.
International Trade Minister Mary Ng said she has been in contact with her European counterpart and she’s hoping any export limitations will leave Canada untouched.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford said it’s time to consider other options as the European market becomes increasingly uncertain.
“The other alternative is to ask our friends south of the border. We’d love to get some vaccines out of Pfizer in Kalamazoo,” Ford said, referring to the company’s plant in Michigan, which is just 220 kilometres from the Windsor-Detroit border crossing.
While the delivery schedules may fluctuate, the government insists its medium-term targets are more certain.
Trudeau said again today that Canada is expecting four million doses from Pfizer and another two million doses from Moderna by the end of the first quarter — enough to vaccinate some three million Canadians with these two-dose products.
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