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The power of vaccine nationalism is so strong that it apparently managed to seduce even Canada, an avatar of multilateralism. That’s the charge leveled against Ottawa following reports that it had pre-purchased tens of millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses from private companies. The Canadian government has repeatedly said that it is committed to ensuring that poorer countries have access to a vaccine and has pledged hundreds of millions of dollars to multinational initiatives to do that. Still, Ottawa’s planning exposes the profound moral dilemmas posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fortunately, the case for unilateral restraint and multilateral engagement makes economic, strategic and ethical sense. International programs are underway to ensure that any COVID-19 vaccine is available to those around the world who need it most. Sadly, the nationalist impulse remains strong and there is little inclination to think about the problem before acting — especially as the death toll mounts.

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