Canada PM says U.S. very open to helping other nations with COVID-19 vaccines

OTTAWA (Reuters) – The United States is “very open” to helping other countries procure COVID-19 vaccines and conversations about how to do so are continuing, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Wednesday.

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The United States will have enough COVID-19 vaccine for every American adult by the end of May, President Joe Biden said on Tuesday. The initial goal had been the end of July.

Canada’s target is the end of September and critics, who complain about the slow roll-out so far, say Trudeau should ask the United States to permit shipments across the border.

Trudeau, asked if this might be possible, said it was clear from his conversations with Biden that Washington understood the best way to combat COVID-19 was to do so worldwide.

“By stepping up on the COVAX (global distribution scheme) facility internationally, by looking at how they can be helpful around the world, (they are) very open to helping out other countries and those conversations will continue,” he told a briefing, but did not elaborate.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Tuesday he was hopeful the United States will be able to share COVID-19 vaccines. Mexico has vaccinated around 1% of its population so far.

Canada has recorded a total of 22,045 deaths from the coronavirus compared to 513,000 south of the border.

Hours before Trudeau spoke, an initial batch of 500,000 doses from AstraZeneca Plc arrived in Canada. These had not been included in Ottawa’s initial plan, Trudeau said, noting regulators were also examining vaccines from other companies.

“We are working very hard to get more vaccines more quickly. … We are very optimistic that we are going to be able to accelerate some of these time lines,” he said.

The government also said it was extending emergency wage and rent subsidy programs until June 5.

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