Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, spoke about the possible roll out of a viable COVID-19 vaccine, stating that she is “cautiously optimistic” that one will be available “in the first quarter of 2021.”
“When vaccines become available, there will be a limited supply at first,” she explained. “While that supply will continue to increase over time, it does mean that federal, provincial and territorial governments will have to make important decisions on how to use the initial vaccine supply.”
On Tuesday, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) provided guidance on populations that should be prioritized for early COVID-19 immunizations, including people at high risk of severe outcomes or those at high risk of spreading to them, essential workers and people whose living or working conditions put them at elevated risk of infection, including Indigenous communities.
“While this preliminary guidance is helpful for planning, there is still a long road ahead,” Dr. Tam said. “Clinical trials need to continue, Health Canada still needs to approve the vaccines, if they are deemed safe and effective, and we will be receiving additional advice on prioritization, based on the characteristics of each vaccine, once approved.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also indicated that obtaining COVID-19 vaccines for Canadian is a “top priority” for the federal government. He added that distribution decisions will be “based on the recommendations of experts.”
“The decision on how to roll out vaccines will be discussed by the vaccine committee of experts but also, it will be a conversation with the provinces,” Trudeau said. “We know that some of the first vaccines to come out have extremely high degrees of logistical support necessary, things like freezers that can keep the vaccines down at -80 C, for example, which doesn’t lend itself to mass distribution in pharmacies across the country, for example.”
“But later vaccines that will be arriving will be able to do that. We have to have a very sophisticated plan to be able to roll out vaccines the right way, the right vaccines, in the right place, to the right people. There are many, may conversations to be had.”