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March 5, 2021 – Federal government update on the COVID-19 pandemic

Here is an update on recent decisions and actions by the Canadian government in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Canada approves a fifth vaccine

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Health Canada has approved a fifth COVID-19 vaccine, this one by Johnson & Johnson, which requires a single dose to ensure immunity.

The four other vaccines, manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca as well as its Indian counterpart, Covishield, must all be administered in two doses.

Canada should receive some 10 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine by the end of September. It has also secured the option to purchase 28 million additional doses.

Vaccination campaign ahead of schedule

 Mr. Trudeau agreed that this additional supply of the vaccine could mean that Canadians that want to be vaccinated will be inoculated before the deadline that was set for the end of September.

However, the prime minister remains cautious due to the supply issues experienced in Canada since the announcement of the first approved vaccines. He also said that European political authorities have given assurances that the vaccines produced for the Canadian market will not be withheld, but will indeed be delivered to Canada.

He added that Canada is now sure to receive more doses than it needs to vaccinate its population.

Federal health transfers

The prime minister maintained his government’s position on discussions about increasing federal health transfers to the provinces once the pandemic is over.

Provincial and territorial premiers are calling on the Canadian government to increase its contribution under the Canada Health Transfer program in the upcoming budget, from $42 to $70 billion. The program would finance 35% of provincial and territorial health costs instead of 22%.

Mr. Trudeau promised that discussions on how to improve Canada’s healthcare system will take place after the pandemic, once the situation is under control. He acknowledged that the federal government is already increasing its contribution, but did not provide any details about the scope of the increase.