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Canada to take COVAX vaccines, won't share doses until every Canadian is inoculated: Anand – CBC.ca

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Canada will take its share of vaccine doses from the internationally funded COVAX initiative and will not give any doses to other countries until all Canadians are vaccinated, said Procurement Minister Anita Anand.

“We are going to make sure that all Canadians have access to vaccines. That’s our priority, that’s the role of the federal government,” Anand told CBC News Network’s Power & Politics Friday. 

“We will then make sure that we are sharing vaccines with the rest of the world and I will say that motivates us every day.”

COVAX is a global vaccine-sharing initiative jointly coordinated by the World Health Organization, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance.

The program pools funds from wealthier countries to buy vaccines for those countries and ensure low- and middle-income countries have access to vaccines as well.

Canada will receive 1.9 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine from the program by the end of June.

The federal government bought into COVAX with $440 million in September and committed an additional $75 million last month.  

Half of the original $440 million secured doses for Canadians, and the other half is directed toward providing doses for 92 countries that need help securing vaccines.

“We are entitled under our agreement with COVAX to draw down on that commitment that we made with them back in the summer,” she told guest host Catherine Cullen. “We are committed to the COVAX facility … and we are one of the largest contributors to that facility and will continue to support it.”

‘We have enough doses,’ says former UN envoy

Canada has been criticized for saying it will take vaccine doses from COVAX, despite having signed supply contracts that would ensure each Canadian could be vaccinated ten times over.

Last month, Canada’s former ambassador to the UN added his voice to those questioning Canada’s decision to accept COVID-19 vaccines from the global vaccine sharing initiative.

Watch: Procurement minister says Canada will still use its share of COVAX vaccines:

Canada has added a fourth vaccine to its approved vaccine supply, but Procurement Minister Anita Anand tells Power & Politics the federal government still plans to procure vaccines from the COVAX program. 2:21

“We don’t need it. We will have enough doses to do the job and we’re getting them online very quickly,” Stephen Lewis told CBC News Network’s Power & Politics

Green Party leader Annamie Paul has also criticized the move.

“Canada is part of a global family, and Canadians know that caring for our neighbours extends beyond our borders. Canadians want to be responsible members of the international community, and the government should refuse to take any doses from the COVAX facility. It’s not smart, but most importantly, it’s not right,” she said in a statement published on her party’s website last month. 

September schedule remains

Earlier today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said vaccine manufacturer Pfizer has agreed to move up the delivery of 3.5 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine — originally scheduled to arrive in the summer — to the next three months.

The company will deliver an additional 1.5 million doses in March, one million more doses in April and another million in May, Trudeau said, bringing the total number of doses of all approved vaccines expected to arrive by the end of this month to 8 million.

Anand said that even with Canada now in a position to receive two million more doses than it had planned for by the end of the first quarter of the year, she’s not prepared to move up the September deadline to deliver vaccines to all Canadians who want them.

She said that global supply chains remain volatile and until the federal government can be completely sure vaccine deliveries will arrive on schedule, the government will stick with its initial deadline. 

“We’ve seen manufacturers make decisions about retooling their plants and indeed, that’s an important thing to remember — these global supply chains are still volatile and we are protecting our vaccine supply chain every step of the way,” she said.

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China to release results of once-in-a-decade census on May 11

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China is expected to release the results of its once-in-a-decade census conducted late last year on May 11, according to a notice from the State Council Information Office.

Officials from the census and statistics bureaus will brief the media on the census results on May 11, the State Council Information Office said in a notice on Sunday.

The National Bureau of Statistics said previously that the results would be released at a media briefing scheduled for early April. It later said the announcement had been delayed, as more preparatory work needed to be done.

 

(Reporting by Ryan Woo, Hallie Gu and Xiao Han; Editing by Himani Sarkar)

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Afghan school blast toll rises to 58, families bury victims

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The death toll from an explosion outside a school in Afghanistan’s capital Kabul has risen to 58, Afghan officials said on Sunday, with doctors struggling to provide medical care to at least 150 injured.

The bombing on Saturday evening shook the city’s Shi’ite Muslim neighbourhood of Dasht-e-Barchi. The community, a religious minority in Afghanistan, has been targeted in the past by Islamic State militants, a Sunni militant group.

An eyewitness told Reuters all but seven or eight of the victims were schoolgirls going home after finishing studies.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Saturday blamed the attack on Taliban insurgents but a spokesman for the Taliban denied involvement, saying the group condemns any attacks on Afghan civilians.

Families of the victims blamed the Afghan government and Western powers for failing to put an end to violence and the ongoing war.

Bodies were still being collected from morgues as the first burials were conducted in the west of the city. Some families were still searching for missing relatives on Sunday, gathering outside hospitals to read names posted on the walls, and checking morgues.

“The entire night we carried bodies of young girls and boys to a graveyard and prayed for everyone wounded in the attack,” said Mohammed Reza Ali, who has been helping families of the victims at a private hospital.

“Why not just kill all of us to put and end to this war?” he said.

The violence comes a week after remaining U.S. and NATO troops began exiting Afghanistan, with a mission to complete the drawdown by September 11, which will mark the end of America’s longest war.

But the foreign troop withdrawal has led a surge in fighting between Afghan security forces and Taliban insurgents with both sides trying to retain control over strategic centres.

(Reporting by Kabul bureau, Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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Chinese rocket debris lands in Indian Ocean, draws criticism from NASA

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By Ryan Woo

BEIJING (Reuters) -Remnants of China’s biggest rocket landed in the Indian Ocean on Sunday, with most of its components destroyed upon re-entry into the atmosphere, ending days of speculation over where the debris would hit but drawing U.S. criticism over lack of transparency.

The coordinates given by Chinese state media, citing the China Manned Space Engineering Office, put the point of impact in the ocean, west of the Maldives archipelago.

Debris from the Long March 5B has had some people looking warily skyward since it blasted off from China’s Hainan island on April 29, but the China Manned Space Engineering Office said most of the debris was burnt up in the atmosphere.

State media reported parts of the rocket re-entered the atmosphere at 10:24 a.m. Beijing time (0224 GMT) and landed at a location with the coordinates of longitude 72.47 degrees east and latitude 2.65 degrees north.

The U.S. Space command confirmed the re-entry of the rocket over the Arabian Peninsula, but said it was unknown if the debris impacted land or water.

“The exact location of the impact and the span of debris, both of which are unknown at this time, will not be released by U.S. Space Command,” it said in a statement on its website.

The Long March was the second deployment of the 5B variant since its maiden flight in May 2020. Last year, pieces from the first Long March 5B fell on Ivory Coast, damaging several buildings. No injuries were reported.

“Spacefaring nations must minimize the risks to people and property on Earth of re-entries of space objects and maximize transparency regarding those operations,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, a former senator and astronaut who was picked for the role in March, said in a statement after the re-entry.

“It is clear that China is failing to meet responsible standards regarding their space debris.”

ANXIETY OVER POTENTIAL DEBRIS ZONE

With most of the Earth’s surface covered by water, the odds of populated area on land being hit had been low, and the likelihood of injuries even lower, according to experts.

But uncertainty over the rocket’s orbital decay and China’s failure to issue stronger reassurances in the run-up to the re-entry fuelled anxiety.

“It is critical that China and all spacefaring nations and commercial entities act responsibly and transparently in space to ensure the safety, stability, security, and long-term sustainability of outer space activities,” Nelson said.

Harvard-based astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell told Reuters that the potential debris zone could have been as far north as New York, Madrid or Beijing, and as far south as southern Chile and Wellington, New Zealand.

Since large chunks of the NASA space station Skylab fell from orbit in July 1979 and landed in Australia, most countries have sought to avoid such uncontrolled re-entries through their spacecraft design, McDowell said.

“It makes the Chinese rocket designers look lazy that they didn’t address this,” said McDowell.

The Global Times, a Chinese tabloid, dismissed as “Western hype” concerns the rocket was “out of control” and could cause damage.

“It is common practice across the world for upper stages of rockets to burn up while reentering the atmosphere,” Wang Wenbin, a spokesman at China’s foreign ministry, said at a regular media briefing on May 7.

“To my knowledge, the upper stage of this rocket has been deactivated, which means most of its parts will burn up upon re-entry, making the likelihood of damage to aviation or ground facilities and activities extremely low,” Wang said at the time.

The rocket, which put into orbit an unmanned Tianhe module containing what will become living quarters for three crew on a permanent Chinese space station, will be followed by 10 more missions to complete the station by 2022.

(Reporting by Ryan Woo, Hallie Gu and Xiao Han in Beijing and Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by Himani Sarkar & Simon Cameron-Moore)

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