Federal official warns Canada will face ‘logistical challenges’ in deploying COVID-19 vaccine

Federal officers sought to reassure Canadians at present that Ottawa has a plan to obtain and distribute tens of millions of COVID-19 vaccines in early 2021, because the government’s critics argue that Canada appears to be falling behind other developed nations in planning for a mass vaccination marketing campaign.

Health Canada regulators are reviewing medical trial knowledge, the government has signed buy agreements for promising vaccine candidates and public health officers have procured needles and syringes for a future deployment, officers stated. But top civil servants nonetheless do not know the way and when Canadians will be vaccinated on account of quite a few uncertainties.

Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, stated the nation will grapple with “some logistical challenges” within the months to come back because it prepares to inoculate Canadians. He stated the federal government will leverage the Canadian Armed Forces and an present influenza vaccine distribution community to assist with deployment.

Njoo warned that vaccine provide will be fairly restricted at first and will be reserved for “high priority groups” solely — seniors in long-term care houses, people vulnerable to extreme sickness and dying, first responders and health care staff and a few Indigenous communities, amongst others.

A bigger rollout, he stated, will occur as soon as provide chains stabilize and regulators approve extra vaccine candidates to be used in Canada.

If all goes nicely, and if U.S. pharmaceutical giants are capable of meet supply timelines, Njoo stated as many as six million doses might be deployed within the first three months of 2021. Each affected person will want two doses of Pfizer’s vaccine.

He cautioned, nonetheless, that it is an “optimistic projection” and the small print are removed from sure proper now.

Njoo stated the federally run National Emergency Strategic Stockpile (NESS), which has storage websites throughout the nation, already has procured the needles and syringes wanted for vaccinations, which will be shared with the provinces and territories.

The federal government additionally has bought chilly storage for the promising Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, ought to they be authorised to be used right here in Canada. Those two medicine are primarily based on groundbreaking messenger RNA know-how, or mRNA, which basically directs cells within the physique to make proteins to forestall or combat illness.

The government has been criticized by the opposition, provincial leaders and a few public health consultants for offering few particulars about its plans to roll out a vaccine as soon as Health Canada provides one the inexperienced mild.

While the U.S. has publicly launched a strong distribution plan — 20 million Americans are anticipated to be vaccinated in December alone — Canadian officers have been largely quiet about how the deployment right here will be structured. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is scheduled to talk with the premiers tonight to supply extra specifics.

Njoo stated there’s been a “great deal of preparation behind the scenes” and the government will present extra details about logistics, distribution and allocation at a later date.

There’s nonetheless no clear timeline for COVID-19 vaccinations within the new yr. (Tony Talbot/AP)

Njoo didn’t supply a exact timeline, past a dedication to getting some Canadians vaccinated “early” subsequent yr.

Arianne Reza, the deputy minister of Public Services and Procurement Canada, stated she expects vaccines will be out there within the “first quarter of 2021.”

She stated Canada has to this point finalized buying agreements with 5 completely different pharmaceutical corporations — AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, Medicago, Pfizer and Moderna — while agreements with Johnson & Johnson and Novavax are being finalized now.

Canada is anticipated to obtain no less than 194 million vaccine doses, with contractual choices for 220 million extra. “Canada does have firm agreements,” Reza stated. “We work every day with the vaccine manufacturers to firm up the delivery schedule.”

Dr. Supriya Sharma, the chief medical adviser at Health Canada, stated her division has been reviewing medical trial knowledge on a rolling foundation since October 9. 

The rolling review course of — a policy shift carried out due to the urgency of this pandemic — permits drug makers to bypass the prolonged timelines they usually face when launching a new vaccine.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is ready to make its remaining resolution on the Pfizer product on Dec. 10 — the corporate has reported a 95 per cent effectiveness charge — and Sharma stated Health Canada is anticipating to provide approval for that product “around the same time. We’re on track to make decisions on similar timelines.”

“We don’t want to set up expectations that we might not be able meet. We’re working flat out,” Sharma stated.

Reza stated she does not know when that product would possibly hit our shores, however she’s hopeful for a quick turnaround.

“The minute regulatory approval comes through, they will be ready to go quite quickly with supply and initial shipments,” she stated.

Sharma stated drug corporations might ship vaccines to Canada for “pre-positioning” — stockpiling prematurely of regulatory approval — however no vaccines have but been shipped to our nation.

Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner, the celebration’s health critic, stated delays in vaccine deployment will result in extra COVID-19-related deaths. She stated Health Minister Patty Hajdu must be ready to apologize to Canadian households who lose family members to the virus.

“I know that sounds stark,” Rempel informed a press convention. “But Canada’s inability to be clear on the details, to have a clear plan — when countries around the world have treated this with military efficiency and the severity that’s needed — will result in death.”

“Countries around the world will have the ability to vaccinate against COVID-19 but, in Canada, we will likely face 2,000 deaths per month because we don’t have the same ability,” she stated, citing federal public health projections concerning the variety of Canadians that might die every month if the virus continues to unfold.

She stated the government is perpetuating “mass chaos” and “mass confusion” by failing to launch a transparent distribution plan solely weeks earlier than an anticipated rollout.

She pointed to feedback from Ontario’s health minister, Christine Elliott, who stated Thursday she nonetheless wasn’t certain simply how a lot her province will obtain as a part of the government’s coordinated vaccine bulk-buying program.

“I don’t even have words for how concerning this is … the provinces haven’t been brought to the table in a meaningful way. There’s a disconnect,” Rempel Garner stated. “At the 11th hour, provincial governments shouldn’t be asking these questions.”

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