Standing Committee on Health: April 16, 2021
Date: Friday, April 16, 2021
Time: 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM
Mr. Chair, I want to thank this committee for inviting me to today’s important meeting to appear alongside several of my colleagues as we work together to combat COVID-19.
Let me begin by acknowledging that I am meeting with you from the territory of many First Nations including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat Peoples.
I appreciate the urgency with which the meeting has been called as our government has been dealing with this sustained crisis for more than a year now.
Canada is now in a third wave of the virus, Mr. Chair, and since the beginning my department—Public Services and Procurement Canada—has worked day and night to procure the goods and services needed to get Canada past the pandemic.
Public Services and Procurement Canada’s role: COVID-19 procurement
Our primary goal has always been to meet the needs established by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and Health Canada as they worked with the provinces and territories to support Canada’s healthcare professionals on the frontlines.
Early on, we focused on buying urgently needed personal protective equipment in what proved to be a hyper-competitive global market, with huge international demand for a finite supply of goods.
My team accelerated procurement processes and, in some instances, established completely new international supply chains to ensure Canadians had access to the most vital personal protective equipment (PPE), much of which was being made overseas.
Mr. Chair, we also tapped into the ingenuity and talent of Canadian companies, putting in place contracts with those who answered our call to action and stepped up to deliver what they could.
At the same time, our government made significant investments in domestic production of much needed PPE, helping several Canadian companies retool and expand their production lines.
To date, my department has now procured some 2.5 billion pieces of equipment, which we are continuing to receive, with a substantial amount of that equipment being made right here at home.
We have also procured other vital supplies and services on behalf of the PHAC such as rapid tests and medical equipment.
As the members of this committee well know, our focus right now is to get vaccines into Canada—and into the arms of all eligible Canadians—as soon as possible.
Mr. Chair, this committee has raised several important issues pertaining to COVID-19 vaccines, issues that our government takes very seriously.
With guidance from our top health officials and experts, my department is responsible for procuring vaccines and our approach on this front has been deliberate, strategic and comprehensive.
Vaccines: Procurement strategy and update
Our work to buy vaccines on behalf of the PHAC is guided by the COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force, and from the outset, their advice was to purchase on a priority basis and focus on a wide range of options.
We began building a diversified portfolio of vaccine candidates as soon as they began to show promise, signing agreements in principle with potential suppliers as early as July 2020.
Our objective was to place Canada in a solid position to take delivery of doses as soon as vaccines were deemed safe and effective—and that is precisely what we have done.
We gained access to more than 400 million doses of potential vaccines from 8 different manufacturers, resulting in one of the most diverse portfolios in the world.
This diverse portfolio is giving Canadians security in what has been and continues to be a volatile marketplace for vaccines.
And it is thanks to this diverse portfolio that we are now seeing inoculations happening across the country.
Today, we have 4 approved vaccines. We have received more than 12 million doses since December. Millions more are arriving on our shores every week and we are working directly with our suppliers to keep them coming.
At the same time, we continue to negotiate for earlier delivery from vaccine suppliers.
As the Prime Minister and I just announced a short time ago, we have secured an additional 8 million Pfizer vaccine doses under our existing agreement with them.
The first 4 million additional doses are scheduled to arrive in May, followed by 2 million doses in June and 2 million doses in July.
In addition to this, Pfizer is also moving another 400,000 doses from the third quarter into June.
So, all of this means that from April until the end of June, we are set to receive at least 24.2 million doses of Pfizer alone. And by the end of September, Canada will have received 48 million Pfizer doses.
This is tremendous news for Canadians.
It means more Pfizer vaccine doses sooner, on top of the millions of other vaccines we already have coming.
I can also now provide an update on our anticipated deliveries of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine.
Canada will receive an initial shipment of approximately 300,000 doses the week of April 27 with more substantial deliveries coming in the latter part of this quarter and into the third quarter.
For AstraZeneca, Canada is scheduled to receive 4.1-million doses from all sources by the end of June with further deliveries in the third quarter.
[4.1M = 1.6M COVAX + 1.5M Serum + 1M APA]
In total, Canada will receive between 48 to 50 million doses of vaccines by the end of June.
Mr. Chair, as we have said many times, by the end of September, we will have more than enough doses so that every eligible person in Canada will be able to be fully vaccinated.
This is good news for Canadians, but it doesn’t mean our work is done.
Our government continues to work with suppliers and our international partners to ensure the steady flow of vaccines into this country, and we are continuing to push for earlier delivery of vaccines from our suppliers.
Mr. Chair, this is the most important work I have ever undertaken in my professional career.
I will keep working to ensure that Canadians can be vaccinated as soon as possible so that we can all put COVID-19 behind us.
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