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GUEST EDITORIAL: U.S. stockpile of vaccines can help Canada tame COVID and reopen border

GUEST EDITORIAL: U.S. stockpile of vaccines can help Canada tame COVID and reopen border

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Border crossing

In this March 18, 2020, file photo, vehicles wait in line to cross into Canada at the Peace Bridge Plaza in Buffalo. 

Canada’s got it and bad, and that’s not good for Western New York or the rest of upstate.

The sudden public health emergency in India dominates discussion of the need for international assistance from the United States, deservedly so. After President Biden spoke Monday with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Biden administration said Monday it will share up to 60 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine with other nations, provided they pass a safety review by the Food and Drug Administration.

Closer to home, COVID-19 conditions are dire in much of Ontario. The U.S. needs to include Canada on the list of AstraZeneca recipients.

AstraZeneca has not requested Food and Drug Administration authorization for its shots here. A steady supply and slackening demand for the other U.S. vaccines — made by Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson — makes it very unlikely that AstraZeneca will be approved here. Regulators in Canada and Mexico did approve it and the United States shipped 1.5 million doses to Canada in late March as part of a loan agreement.

The abundance of our country’s stockpile — we could have 200 million doses of AstraZeneca by July — means we can provide immense help to other nations. President Biden last week said he had spoken with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and that the United States was “going to try to help some more.”

Now would be a good time for Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, and other members of Western New York’s delegation to remind the president that our neighboring country needs us to do more than try.

The pandemic has put Ontario hospitals through a severe stress test. Intensive care units are having to turn away patients. Hospitals can’t perform anything but emergency services and the province under Premier Doug Ford has been yo-yoing between lockdown orders and partial reopenings.

The tables have turned since the summer of 2020, when this country was underperforming many others in containing coronavirus and the border closure was enacted more to protect Canadians from the people on our side.

In addition to Western New Yorkers who are kept apart from loved ones during the border closure, the two countries have overlapping economic interests. We depend on Canadians who come to shop and attend plays, concerts and sporting events. Americans also support Canadian tourism, retail and arts establishments. And Buffalo Niagara businesses often have cross-border ties.

Ford turned down an offer from Trudeau to dispatch Red Cross staff to help with inoculations. Ford said the province’s first priority was getting more vaccine supply.

Meanwhile, Canada’s procurement minister, Anita Anand, told CTV on Sunday that her country is in negotiations with the United States to get more doses of AstraZeneca shots. She expected Canada’s supply to ramp up significantly by late May to early June.


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