WASHINGTON—Canada has asked the U.S. for help with its vaccine supply, White House press secretary Jenn Psaki said during a briefing Wednesday, but she did not say whether that help would be forthcoming, or when.
“We have received requests from both Mexico and Canada, and are considering those requests carefully, but I don’t have any update on whether they will be granted and a timeline for that,” Psaki said.
The comments in response to a question Wednesday came on the heels of a report by Bloomberg news, citing an unnamed U.S. official, saying that Canada and Mexico were at the top of President Joe Biden’s list of countries likely to receive exports of U.S.-made vaccine supplies eventually.
If that help is coming, it won’t be immediate — Psaki and other Biden administration officials, and the official named in the Bloomberg report — have been insistent that no exports of vaccines manufactured in the U.S. or sharing of the U.S. stockpile will happen until after all Americans are able to be vaccinated first.
“Any decision we make about requests, and we have them from around the world, as you all know and are tracking, we’ll ensure that we are able to still quickly vaccinate the American people, as that remains our top priority,” Psaki said. “We’re still in the midst of fighting the war against the pandemic right here.”
In recent weeks, Biden and his government have been sharing increasingly good news about the supply in the U.S., with multiple announcements of increased orders and sped-up timelines that should mean there is enough supply for all Americans to be eligible to receive a dose by the end of May.
Canada, which struggled initially with delays to the supplies of vaccine it contracted to buy, is facing a somewhat longer timeline. While Canada now expects to have enough to give a single dose of vaccine to every Canadian by the end of June, that is in large part because it has delayed second dose timelines from the weeks apart recommended by manufacturers to up to four months apart. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has continued to project full vaccination by September.
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Mexico has been struggling too, more publicly, as its president has been making open appeals to the U.S. for help in procuring vaccines. This week, Mexico made a specific appeal for export of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is a potential sore spot for countries such as Canada and Mexico.
The New York Times reported on Thursday that tens of millions of doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine — approved in Canada and other countries around the world but not in the U.S. — are sitting in warehouses in Maryland and Ohio and they will be unlikely to be used in the U.S. As of now, the company has yet to even apply for U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval of its vaccine, and the U.S. has commitments for enough vaccines for 500 million people from the other, already-approved vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson, according to the Bloomberg report.
Despite appeals from Europe and South America — and now Mexico, publicly — U.S. officials have still refused to allow export of these AstraZeneca vaccines.
On Wednesday, François-Philippe Champagne, Canada’s minister of innovation, science and industry, said he’d raised the subject of vaccines with U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.
“It is something that I raised in terms of making sure that we work together to ensure the health and safety of people on both sides of the border,” Champagne said.
With files from the Candian Press
Edward Keenan is the Star’s Washington Bureau chief. He covers U.S. politics and current affairs. Reach him via email: [email protected]
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