Thank you so much, Mr. Chair, and thank you to the committee for inviting me to speak with you today and for allowing me to spend two hours with you on what is a very important issue, Canada's role in the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly through our important support for the ACT Accelerator and the COVAX facility.
I would like to thank my officials who joined for the previous session and to recognize both Peter and Josh, who are on the call with us today. They and their teams have been absolutely extraordinary and have been working around the clock for the past 14 months with regard to our global health response from Canada.
It was over a year ago that we began to realize the scale of the challenge we faced with a virus that respected no borders. Disruptions to health systems and food security have had significant impacts on maternal and child mortality and access to sexual and reproductive health services.
Every day, schools are closed and the risk of dropout increases, as does the likelihood that families see no choice but to marry off their daughters as they struggle to feed and house them. Unpaid workloads have increased for everyone, but women are taking on greater intensity of care-related tasks and are leaving the workforce more than men.
With a global situation of more than 140 million COVID-19 cases and three million deaths, with many countries going through a third wave and with new and worrying variants driving this deteriorating situation, the scale of what we are facing is worrying for everyone.
That is why we need to ensure that our response includes a particular focus on the world's poorest and most marginalized and that it considers the differentiated needs of women and girls.
To date, Canada has mobilized more than $2 billion in international assistance in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including funding for humanitarian and development assistance. Budget 2021 highlighted an additional $375 million to support the global response.
We are funding our humanitarian partners to provide increased surveillance systems and infection prevention; water, sanitation and hygiene; protection services; emergency health care; and other common services.
In order to support the needs of those most at risk and in particular to support health workers and high-risk populations, the world truly came together to develop a mechanism to provide solutions for all.
One year ago, the ACT Accelerator had just been launched and the COVAX facility did not yet exist. Now we have the global mechanisms we need to respond to this challenge. I am proud that Canada was at the forefront of the creation of the ACT Accelerator and COVAX facility. We have been a key supporter and leading donor since the very beginning.
I am proud to be the co-chair of the COVAX AMC engagement group and to sit on the facilitation council of the ACT Accelerator, further solidifying Canada's position as a global leader in the fight against COVID-19.
As I mentioned in my previous appearance a short while ago, Canada has provided $940 million to the ACT Accelerator across all pillars to support equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines and to support the health systems so critical to delivering these life-saving tools to populations in need.
The COVAX facility within the vaccine pillar of the ACT A is the global procurement mechanism led by Gavi, the World Health Organization and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.
COVAX was designed with two windows: a self-financing stream window, through which upper middle- and high-income countries like Canada are able to purchase vaccines; and the advance market commitment, designed to procure doses for 92 low- and lower middle-income countries.
The self-financing mechanism offered a procurement insurance policy for participating countries, giving access to a wide range of vaccine candidates before anyone knew which, if any, would prove to be effective.
In parallel, the investments of high and upper middle-income countries in the mechanism increased the purchasing power of COVAX, helping to ensure a fair price point for COVAX’s procurement of doses for lower-income countries.
Because higher-income countries like Canada have invested in the facility for their own needs, COVAX has been able to increase its leverage with pharmaceutical companies to negotiate for all countries.
This is one of the reasons why the Government of Canada decided last September to use the COVAX facility to procure vaccines; it helped ensure access to a broad spectrum of vaccines, at a fair price, and it would do this for all participants, including low- and lower-middle income countries.
We have now contributed $325 million to procure and deploy COVID-19 vaccine doses through COVAX for low- and lower-middle income countries.
The facility is up and running. It has become operational quickly and effectively. In the last two months, more than 120 countries have received over 49 million doses, and this is just the beginning.
This initiative includes doses for Canada and other high-income countries, as had been planned for from the beginning; it is central to the facility’s success. It also includes doses for dozens of low-income and middle-income countries. For many, COVAX is and will continue to be their key mechanism to access World Health Organization-approved vaccines.
Over a year into this pandemic, we have learned many things and continue to adapt our response to a rapidly changing context both in Canada and internationally, but one thing has only become more clear: We will only beat this pandemic in Canada when we beat it everywhere. The ACT Accelerator and COVAX facilities are the world's initiatives to beat the pandemic. These are the most powerful tools we have in the global fight against COVID-19. They need and deserve our continued support.
With that, I thank you for the opportunity to have this conversation and I welcome your questions.