Canada paid a higher price than other countries for AstraZeneca’s COVID vaccine because it didn’t have the manufacturing capacity to make doses itself, Procurement Minister Anita Anand said Friday.
An email sent by a staffer in the Prime Minister’s Office on the eve of the announcement of Ottawa’s deal with AstraZeneca was made public last week, shining light for the first time on the exact price Ottawa paid for COVID vaccines.
The price it negotiated with AstraZeneca — $8.18 apiece for 20 million doses — was more than twice what some ally countries have reportedly paid.
“AstraZeneca has been clear that it had been offering not-for-profit pricing across the board,” Anand, Canada’s minister responsible for buying vaccines, said. “The prices differ across jurisdictions, based on the other considerations that need to be taken into account, including domestic manufacturing capacity.”
Anand says she can’t reveal details of the government’s seven vaccine contracts because they’re covered by blanket confidentiality clauses.
Canada’s domestic manufacturing capacity has declined over the decades, forcing the government to buy COVID shots from companies that produce them outside of Canada.
Since the pandemic started, the federal government has announced hundreds of millions of dollars to restore Canada’s ability to produce homegrown vaccines. But none of the facilities is expected to be up and running before the end of the summer, when Canada hopes the pandemic will be under control.
At a news conference on Friday, Anand and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responded to a comment made by U.S. President Joe Biden this week that the U.S. hopes to soon send more vaccines to other countries, including Canada.
“We continue to work very closely with (the Biden administration) to ensure that we’re getting more doses as quickly as possible,” said Trudeau, who spoke with Biden on the phone about vaccines earlier this week.
“We are engaging at all levels, as the prime minister’s call with President Biden suggests, and I, too, am in constant communications with (U.S. COVID-response coordinator) Jeffrey Zeints and his team in the United States,” Anand said.
While the U.S. doesn’t have enough doses to share with other countries right now, Biden said Wednesday he’s “confident” it will soon, adding, “We helped a little bit there, (and) we’re going to try and help some more.”
The U.S. has already sent 1.5 million AstraZeneca shots north.
Canada could use the extra shots right now. While distribution has accelerated since a slow start — and, in recent weeks, the country has boasted one of the fastest rollouts in the G20 — the rollout is only operating at half the health-care system’s capacity.
Canada’s provinces and territories say they’re capable of injecting 3.1 million vaccine doses per week. As of a week ago, just 1.8 million doses had been administered over the previous seven days. The government is expecting 1.9 million more doses next week.
According to the current schedule of deliveries, Canada won’t start regularly receiving 3.1 million doses per week until mid- to late May.
As of Friday, more than 11 million doses of COVID vaccines had been injected into Canadian arms, and just shy of 30 per cent of Canadians had received at least one dose, said Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer.
If 75 per cent of Canadian adults get one shot, and 20 per cent are fully vaccinated, by this summer, workplaces, businesses, leisure facilities, and other public places that have been closed could safely reopen, according to the federal government’s latest COVID modelling, which was released Friday.
Much of the country is under lockdown-style restrictions imposed by provincial governments trying to curb the spread of COVID and fend off a third wave of the pandemic that has pushed ICUs to their limits around the country.
This content was originally published here.