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Canada heralds first COVAX vaccine in Africa; NDP criticizes Canada for using program

Last Updated Feb 24, 2021 at 3:54 pm EDT

This photograph released by UNICEF on Wednesday Feb. 24, 2021 shows the first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines distributed by the COVAX Facility arriving at the Kotoka International Airport in Accra, Ghana. Ghana has become the first country in the world to receive vaccines acquired through the United Nations-backed COVAX initiative with a delivery of 600,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine made by the Serum Institute of India. (Francis Kokoroko/UNICEF via AP)

OTTAWA — International Development Minister Karina Gould says the first injection of a COVID-19 vaccine in Ghana is a significant milestone for a new global vaccine-sharing program created to bring doses to low-income countries.

But the NDP wants the House of Commons to censure the Canadian government for being the only G7 country to accept doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine through the program, known as COVAX, later this year.

Some 600,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine arrived in the West African country of Ghana on Wednesday, months after the rollout of vaccines in Canada and the rest of the developed world, which has underscored the inequity COVAX was seeking to avoid. 

COVAX was founded last year with the backing of the World Health Organization to bring vaccines to countries that can’t afford them, and rich countries that have invested heavily in the program, such as Canada, are entitled to doses for their own domestic use.

NDP development critic Heather McPherson says Canada’s decision to exercise its legal right to the COVAX doses highlights the fact the Liberal government has failed to guarantee enough of a domestic supply of vaccines.

She says she will be pushing the Commons committee on foreign affairs and international development to allow her party’s motion to be debated and voted on in the full Parliament.  

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2021.

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press