Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed on Wednesday that any COVID-19 vaccine approved by Health Canada would be freely available to all Canadians.
Answering a question from New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Jagmeet Singh during a session in the House of Commons, the prime minister said that future vaccines would be available at no cost through Canada’s universal health care system.
“We deeply cherish our universal health care system, and that means things like life-saving vaccines are free for Canadians,” he said.
Trudeau also mentioned that the government was working with independent experts to ensure the proper distribution of vaccines across the country once they’re available.
“We put forward a committee of independent experts to help counsel the government on the best way to ensure that vaccines are distributed fairly, equitably, and in the right priority way so that Canadians can be as safe as possible as these vaccines are discovered,” he said.
The confirmation follows a deal struck with AstraZeneca in September to acquire up to 20 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine candidate; as well as $440 million in support for the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) Facility, which helps ensure equitable access to vaccines to Canadians and people around the world.
While Trudeau's government has taken significant steps to ensure an equitable COVID-19 recovery in Canada and beyond, not all vaccines are covered by government health plans. Immunization for diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, measles, mumps, and rubella comes free-of-charge through Canada’s health care system — but coverage for other vaccines varies significantly from province to province.
In Ontario, for example, getting vaccinated against yellow fever costs $85, while vaccination costs for other preventable diseases such as hepatitis A and B can reach $150, the Star reported. And in some provinces, shingle vaccinations can cost up to $300 — which can prevent seniors from getting shots they need, according to CBC.
New data also shows that immunization rates among children in Canada are falling short, highlighting the need to double down on vaccination efforts as the world continues to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.