question period — Health

COVID -19 Vaccine Rollout

April 30, 2021


Hon. Donald Neil Plett (Leader of the Opposition)
[12:29]

Honourable senators, before I ask my question of the government leader, if you would indulge me, our deputy leader is not with us today, as she and her family have been sitting with her dying mother for the last few days, which is expected to not last very much longer. Therefore, our thoughts and prayers are with Senator Martin during this time.

My question today is for the government leader in the Senate.

Senator Gold, although the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine was approved almost two months ago, the first shipment arrived only this week. We don’t have a confirmed date for when the next shipment is coming, although we have been told it is sometime in June. The Moderna shipment received on Wednesday was late and contained only half of the amount previously expected.

Canada will not be receiving AstraZeneca from the Serum Institute of India anytime soon due to the crisis unfolding in that country. The AstraZeneca we have received to date has either been lent to us by the United States or taken from a supply primarily meant to help developing nations.

Leader, less than 3% of all Canadians are fully vaccinated. Given all of this, how can the Prime Minister say he has no regrets about his government’s vaccine rollout?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate)
[12:31]

Thank you for your question, senator.

I’ve been advised that, to date, the government has delivered close to 14 million vaccines to provinces and territories. Each week in May, 2 million doses of Pfizer will arrive. That means that starting next week, Canada is expected to receive a cumulative total of between 10.3 and 12.3 million doses when you add all of this together, including Moderna. Again, that’s putting all of the sources together.

So the short answer to your question is that this government continues to exceed its promises in terms of getting as many vaccines to the people of the country as possible, and the provinces and territories are doing an excellent job in getting those vaccines into people’s arms.

[12:32]

My question was how the Prime Minister can say he has no regrets. I assume from your answer that you concur: There are no regrets needed for the dismal failure of the government in their rollout.

I have a supplementary question, Senator Gold, and I’m hoping that you will be a little more forthcoming with a direct answer on this. As I mentioned earlier, Canada has taken AstraZeneca vaccines from a supply that was meant to help the world’s most vulnerable people. Canada is the only G7 country to take vaccines from COVAX — over 300,000 doses, in fact.

Leader, I understand that the Prime Minister is going to give a speech at a global celebrity concert next week. He is going to talk about the need for international cooperation to end the pandemic. Tell us this, leader: Will the Prime Minister tell celebrities how his failure to provide adequate vaccines for Canadians led him to raid the vaccine supply for developing nations?

Senator Gold
[12:34]

Senator, thank you for your question, but the assumptions and assertions you’re making with regard to COVAX are simply not correct. Canada is a major contributor to COVAX and, according to the rules of the program, has increased its contribution above and beyond what was required and requested to assist — as Canada will — the countries of the world. Also, the program allowed Canada, with additional investments, to secure a supply for Canadians.

Canada is on track to receive at least 49 million doses of vaccines by the end of this coming quarter — by the end of June. We all would share a regret that Canadians have had to suffer through this pandemic in terms of so many lives lost, so many families affected and of such horrible consequences to the mental and physical health of individuals and businesses. However, the Government of Canada continues to work around the clock to do the very best it can. With the number of doses we have received and are scheduled to receive in the months to come, the Government of Canada is doing its best — and a good job — to protect Canadians.