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January 28, 2010

Government of Canada Announces Significant Contribution to WHO Global Pandemic Relief Efforts

(OTTAWA) The Government of Canada today announced it will make a donation of five million doses of the H1N1 flu vaccine, as well as a $6 million contribution to support the World Health Organization’s (WHO) global pandemic relief efforts.  The five million vaccine doses amount to 10% of Canada’s total vaccine order, a donation which is in line with that of other developed countries. The $6 million, provided by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), will enable the WHO to support H1N1 vaccination programs in developing countries.

"We are fortunate to be in a position to contribute H1N1 flu vaccine to the WHO to help developing countries now that we have met Canada’s immediate needs," Canada’s Minister of Health, the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq affirmed.  Citing a WHO update released on January 22, 2010 that reported pockets of intense H1N1 flu activity in recent weeks in North Africa, South Asia and parts of Eastern Europe, Minister Aglukkaq emphasized that: "The Government of Canada will work collaboratively with the WHO to ensure its vaccine donation is shipped in a timely way to those countries most in need."

"Developing countries are particularly vulnerable to H1N1 flu because they have little or no access to needed resources to address this urgent health situation. CIDA’s support will help provide vaccine and increase their capacity to respond to the H1N1 flu among the most vulnerable in these countries," said the Honourable Beverley J. Oda, Minister of International Cooperation.

Over the past five years the Government of Canada has committed over $100 million to international initiatives that support developing countries to prepare for and respond to pandemic outbreaks.  This further contribution underscores Canada’s willingness to do its part as a responsible and committed member of the international community.

Canada’s H1N1 flu vaccine strategy has been informed by the best available scientific and epidemiological evidence.  Following the largest national immunization campaign in Canadian history, Canada has remaining H1N1 vaccine available.  Earlier this month, with the support of the provincial and territorial governments, the Government of Canada also shipped five million doses of H1N1 flu vaccine to help Mexico to bridge its vaccine requirements. Further options for managing Canada’s remaining H1N1 flu vaccine supply are being reviewed.

A number of signs point to the end of the second wave of the H1N1 outbreak in Canada, including a decrease in reported rates of H1N1 infection, hospitalization and deaths, few outbreaks being reported in schools and hospitals, fewer Canadians visiting their doctors with flu symptoms, and decreasing sales of antivirals nationwide.  However, Dr. David Butler-Jones, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, cautioned that it is too early to declare victory: "We are continuing to encourage Canadians who have not yet been vaccinated to do so – not only because the H1N1 flu virus is still circulating in some communities, but also because getting vaccinated today will provide individuals with a strong base of protection in the event of a third H1N1 flu virus wave or if the virus drifts," he concluded.

The WHO will deliver the vaccine to countries it has identified as being currently the most vulnerable with plans in place to distribute the vaccine. This support underscores Canada’s commitment to global health.

Media Inquiries:

Media Relations
Public Health Agency of Canada
(613) 941-8189

Josée Bellemare
Office of the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq
Minister of Health

Jessica Fletcher
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of International Cooperation
Telephone: 819-953-6238

Media Relations Office
Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)
Telephone: 819-953-6534