Canada Boosts COVID-19 and Health Response

The Honourable Harjit Sajjan, Canada’s Minister of International Development, was deep in conversation with Dr. Ciro Ugarte, Director of Health Emergencies at PAHO, at the CanGIVE launch held earlier in  International Seabed Authority Media Room in Kingston.

Kingston, Jamaica, January 13, 2023 – Jamaica’s COVID-19 and health response received a boost valued at approximately 10.2 million Canadian dollars (CAD) [equivalent to approximately 1.15 billion Jamaican dollars] under Canada's Global Initiative for Vaccine Equity (CanGIVE). The announcement was made by The Honourable Harjit Sajjan, Canada’s Minister of International Development, today.  

“Although we may wish we could turn the page on COVID-19 altogether, we know it is not that simple. There is still work to do to control the spread of the virus, move into recovery, and build stronger health systems so we can be better prepared for future crises,” said Minister Sajjan when discussing the need to maintain focus on the COVID-19 response. 

Under CanGIVE, the Government of Canada will support COVID-19 vaccination and response in twelve countries globally, of which three countries are in Latin America and the Caribbean. In Jamaica, CanGIVE will enhance vaccine delivery and distribution, and reinforce efforts to build vaccine confidence among high-risk groups where coverage remains low. Canada will work with implementing partners, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), and UNICEF in the Latin America and Caribbean region. 

“Canada’s partnership with the Pan American Health Organization will help to increase access to COVID vaccines, especially for people in vulnerable situations, including women and girls. Together, we will also help improve vaccine surveillance, and support health workers,” said Minister Sajjan. 

He continued, “Working with our longstanding partners at UNICEF, we will help make sure COVID vaccines are delivered and distributed equitably, to those who are most at risk. Our partnership will reinforce primary health care systems as they integrate COVID vaccination, including by providing water, sanitation and hygiene services that are gender-sensitive." 

PAHO is set to receive CAD $45 million under CanGIVE, a renewal of Canada's commitment to PAHO's regional COVID-19 response, adding to the previously distributed CAD $50 million.  

In his address at the launch, Dr. Ciro Ugarte, Director of Health Emergencies at PAHO, stated, “While the Americas represents only 13% of the global population, as of January 10th, it accounts for 28.3% of the total cases reported and 43.3% of the reported deaths worldwide. As such, COVID-19 remains much deadlier in the Americas than in any other region.” 

The results of PAHO’s existing partnership with Canada since 2021 have strengthened cold chain operations which, in turn, has facilitated the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. In collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Wellness, PAHO has also increased operational capacity for the deployment and surveillance of COVID-19 vaccines in the field.   

Looking ahead, Ugarte stated that the continued partnership with Canada will, “enable PAHO to ensure at-risk populations such as elderly, people with chronic diseases, pregnant women, and health care workers receive the COVID-19 vaccines that they need for protection. Additionally, we will leverage this funding to rebuild routine immunization services as a fundamental pillar of a robust, resilient, equity-centered primary healthcare system that can provide essential services for the entire population.”   

UNICEF will also receive an additional CAD $70 million to support all twelve countries under CanGIVE. Speaking at the event, Vicente Teran, Acting UNICEF Representative to Jamaica welcomed this initiative. “UNICEF’s work in the region will be greatly enhanced as we strengthen the systems to deliver improved health care, especially for children.”   

He said, “UNICEF is honored to work hand in hand with the Government of Jamaica, with this generous support from Canada, as we transition from managing COVID-19 as an acute, global emergency towards integration and strengthening of primary health care to be more resilient to future challenges.  

While accepting the support on behalf of the Government of Jamaica, Honourable Christopher Tufton, Minister of Health and Wellness said, “These funds under the CANGIVE initiative are indeed timely as it provides a well needed boost and new energy to increase awareness and to let Jamaicans realize that COVID is not over.” 

He continued, “CanGIVE promises strengthened capacity among healthcare workers to deliver COVID-19 vaccination through, among other things, improved policy and human resources. It also takes on board gender-responsive services and the improved ability to develop rights-respecting information systems and digital platforms for surveillance.” 

CanGIVE represents a tangible example of the Government of Canada’s longstanding commitment to support stronger health systems and enhance gender-responsive vaccination programmes that respond to the needs of marginalized groups.  

Minister Sajjan reiterated, “vaccines do not do any good sitting in vials. It takes a health system to turn a vaccine into a vaccination.”