Remarks updating Canadians on COVID-19 vaccine authorizations and procurement
Good morning, everyone.
I am pleased to be joined virtually today by Ministers Anand, Hajdu and LeBlanc, and also by Dr. Tam, Dr. Njoo and Major-General Fortin.
Tomorrow, for many students in Quebec and New Brunswick, it’s the beginning of March Break.
It’s a well deserved week off.
We know that it’s not easy for young people and teachers right now.
So enjoy yourselves.
The weather seems like it’s not going to be too cold.
It’s a good time to play outside and do outdoor activities.
But we absolutely need to keep being careful.
Mass vaccination is starting.
Spring is coming.
We cannot let March Break ruin all of our efforts of the last few months.
So follow local public health guidelines.
Now is not the time for several families to be gathered together in the same house or cottage.
With the new variants, we cannot take risks.
We all want spring and summer to be better.
So please be careful.
This week, Canada received a total of 643,000 doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.
This is our largest week of shipments to date.
Vaccines will keep arriving faster and faster as we head into the spring.
And not just because shipments of Moderna and Pfizer are ramping up – which they are – but because Canada has now approved yet another vaccine option.
This morning, Health Canada authorized the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine, as well as the Serum Institute of India’s version – CoviShield – which is sponsored in Canada by Mississauga’s Verity Pharmaceuticals.
In other words, we now have a third safe and effective vaccine independently approved by health experts in Canada.
This is very encouraging news.
It means more people vaccinated, and sooner.
Because for AstraZeneca, like we were for Pfizer and Moderna, we’re ready to get doses rolling.
Canada has secured 2 million doses of the CoviShield vaccine through an agreement with Verity Pharmaceuticals and the Serum Institute of India.
With the vaccine now approved in Canada, our first shipment of half a million of these doses will arrive within weeks.
The remaining doses are scheduled for delivery over the next couple of months.
These 2 million doses are in addition to the 20 million doses we’ve already secured with AstraZeneca that will start arriving in the spring, and any AstraZeneca doses that Canada receives from COVAX will be added to that total.
So there are a lot of numbers out there. Here’s the bottom line:
With Pfizer, Moderna, and now AstraZeneca, Canada will get to more than 6.5 million doses by the end of March, and there will be tens of millions more doses to come between April and June.
I want to express my appreciation for the support and partnership of the Indian government in fighting COVID-19 and helping secure these doses for Canadians.
I also want to thank Minister Anand, and our teams at Public Services and Procurement Canada, and Global Affairs Canada for their outstanding work on this file both here and in India.
This morning, Health Canada approved the AstraZeneca vaccine developed in partnership with Oxford University.
That is very good news.
Today, I can announce that Canada has signed an agreement with Verity Pharmaceuticals and the Serum Institute of India to receive two million doses of the CoviShield vaccine, based on the AstraZeneca vaccine.
I can confirm that we will receive 500,000 doses through this agreement in the coming weeks.
The rest will be arriving in the next few months.
These two million doses are in addition to the 20 million doses already planned with AstraZeneca, and the other doses that Canada will receive through the COVAX initiative.
So in summary, by the end of March, including Pfizer, Moderna and now AstraZeneca, Canada will have received a total of more than 6.5 million doses of vaccines against COVID‑19, with tens of millions more to follow between April and June.
I know that vaccines are on everyone’s mind right now.
You’re looking forward to you and your loved ones getting your shot.
We’re working around the clock to make sure that happens as soon as possible.
Deliveries are ramping up, and we’ve got incredible people across the country working as one big team towards the same goal.
Just take Brienna from Kamloops.
Brienna is a front line nurse who sent me an email recently, and I’m glad she did.
Because to you, Brienna, and to all of the nurses, doctors, and healthcare staff out there, I want to say this:
Every day, you’re making sure your fellow Canadians get tested, get vaccinated, and stay safe.
You are our heroes.
As vaccinations ramp up across the country, many provinces have expanded the number of health professions able to administer the COVID-19 vaccine.
If you’re a dentist, a paramedic, a midwife, a pharmacy technician, or a retired nurse:
We need your help.
And people like Brienna need your help, too.
Together, we will make sure that every Canadian who wants it will be vaccinated by September.
I would now like to follow up with another piece of good news.
Last June, the research and development organization FP-Innovations in Quebec, which creates solutions aimed at growing Canada’s forest sector, set itself the goal of developing a compostable mask.
In partnership with Natural Resources Canada, they have now created one of the world’s first compostable non-medical masks.
These masks can be manufactured from wood fibre by Canadian producers using local materials.
Thank you to the people involved for your leadership, and good luck in your next challenge to develop a fully biodegradable level 1 medical mask.
It is by continuing to combine our strengths and our Canadian know-how that, together, we will get through this crisis.
Speaking of joining forces, we have had a very productive and positive week in terms of our relationship with the United States.
This week, we agreed on an ambitious and comprehensive roadmap for renewing the partnership between Canada and the United States.
And we got straight to work.
On Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister Freeland, Minister Garneau, and I had a very productive meeting with President Biden and Vice President Harris.
It was great to see that we’re on the same page when it comes to so many of the challenges our world is facing – whether that’s ending COVID-19 or rebuilding our economies in a way that supports the middle class and creates good jobs.
We’re on the same page, too, when it comes to fighting climate change and working together to build a more peaceful and prosperous world.
Of course, our collaboration with the new administration didn’t end with the meeting we had on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, Minister Wilkinson had a meeting with Special Envoy for Climate, John Kerry.
Yesterday, Minister Alghabra and Transportation Secretary Buttigieg released a joint statement on how our countries’ transportation sectors will tackle climate change together.
And today, Minister Garneau and I will meet with Secretary of State Blinken to discuss defending human rights around the world, among other things.
As partners, allies, and friends, I know we’re going to work together to make life better for people on both sides of the border.
And right now, job one remains beating this pandemic.
We still have to be very careful, especially with new variants out there.
We all want to start the spring in the best shape possible.
That’s why rapid testing continues to be an important part of our strategy to fight this virus.
On that front, we’re going to keep sending rapid tests to the provinces and territories while we also work with the private sector to get more Canadians tested.
And finally, I want to end this morning by recognizing that today is the Lantern Festival which marks the end of Lunar New Year.
Just like with Black History Month, which ends this Sunday, celebrations were different this year.
But what will never change is the fact that year round, Canada is stronger because of the incredible contributions of Asian-Canadians, of Black Canadians, and of everyone who calls this country home.
Now more than ever, as we face these tough times, we need to come together and stand strong and united.
Last week, the Vancouver Police Department released data that shows that anti-Asian crimes in the city rose by more than 700% in 2020.
Too many other cities have also reported significant increases of these hateful crimes, including here in Ottawa.
And in Edmonton, there has been a recent series of appalling attacks targeting Black, racialized, and Muslim women.
To the victims: we stand with you.
There is no place for this in Canada.
These acts are unacceptable and they have to stop.
These are difficult times, and we must continue to help each other and work together, now and in the future.
Thank you to everyone.
And now, I am pleased to turn the floor over to Minister Anand