British Columbia

B.C. NDP leader promises free COVID-19 vaccine during town hall

NDP Leader John Horgan announced during his re-election campaign at a virtual town hall that he is promising free COVID-19 vaccine to British Columbians once it is approved and made available.

John Horgan says COVID-19 vaccine will be free in B.C. once it is approved and available

B.C. NDP Leader John Horgan on the campaign trail. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

NDP Leader John Horgan says his government will provide free COVID-19 vaccine to British Columbians once it is approved and is available.  

He made the campaign promise during a virtual town hall Monday afternoon.

Horgan said providing the COVID-19 vaccine free is on top his government's recently announced pandemic preparedness plan which commits to purchasing two million doses of flu vaccine for this influenza season.

"The difficult times are not over yet, because the virus will be with us for the foreseeable future. But once there is a safe and approved vaccine, we will ensure every British Columbian can get one," said Horgan.

The NDP's $1.6-billion pandemic preparedness plan announced in September will also hire 7,000 new front-line health care workers in long-term care and assisted living.

Researchers work on a vaccine against the coronavirus at Copenhagen University in Denmark in March. (Thibault Savary/AFP/Getty Images)

Horgan made the healthcare announcement at the beginning of a virtual town hall during which he planned to take questions on several topics.

"The last thing we should do now is go back to a government that puts the wealthy and well-connected before the needs of people. Putting people first has been at the heart of our pandemic response and it will continue to be if our team is re-elected."

In a tweet, Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson reacted by questioning why a free vaccine for something as serious as COVID was even an issue.

"In what world would a life-saving vaccine not be free to British Columbians? the Liberal leader tweeted. "It's our duty to provide health care to everyone in B.C. It's beyond belief that the NDP even considered charging for this."

His sentiments were echoed by the Green Party of B.C. which called the election promise a "no-brainer".

"Given how much British Columbians have sacrificed waiting for a vaccine, would any political party seriously consider not giving the vaccine to everyone?"

The party said it, too, supports a publicly funded COVID-19 vaccine.

The Health Research Foundation of Innovative Medicines Canada Chair in Pandemic Preparedness Research, Dr. Srinivas Murthy, told CBC Tuesday he was always under the assumption a vaccine, once available, would be free for all Canadians.

"The federal government has already spent billions of dollars on purchasing the vaccine, so I think we worked under the idea that if there was a vaccine available and it was proven safe and effective... that everyone would get it.," said Murthy.

In September, the Canadian government announced it had invested more than $1 billion to secure access to six leading vaccine candidates from multiple companies around the world.

With files from The Early Edition


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