Canada will donate 17.7 million AstraZeneca vaccine doses to help inoculate people in Third World countries, the government announced Monday.
The announcement also included a commitment of CAN$10 million (US$8 million) that will match donations dollar-for-dollar to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) by individual Canadians.
The vaccines will be administered by COVAX, a joint vaccine-sharing program run by the World Health Organization (WHO), the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation (CEPI) and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.
"This donation is a result of our proactive approach to securing hundreds of millions of COVID-19 vaccines in our initial contracts. With close to 55 million vaccines in Canada, and with the demands of the provinces and territories for this vaccine being met, we are now in a position to donate these excess doses," said Canada's Procurement Minister Anita Anand.
As well, donations to UNICEF by Canadians will be matched by the federal government up to CAN$10 million. If the donations and the federal government reach the goal of $20 million, it will provide funds to vaccinate four million people, Anand said.
The 17.7 million doses and CAN$10 million matching donor program are on top of Canada's CAN$440 million contribution to COVAX.
The doses come at a crucial time as global cases of the coronavirus rise and WHO officials warn that wealthier countries must do more to help lower- and middle-income countries that are struggling with skyrocketing cases.
US-based Johns Hopkins University, which keeps a running tally of global virus statistics, reported as of Monday over 187 million virus cases worldwide and more than four million deaths.
“While Canadians continue to lead the world in vaccine administration, we know the picture is very different in many parts of the world,” Anand said.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the Delta variant of the virus is "ripping around the world at a scorching pace."
"We need more [vaccines] and we need them now."