Health Canada says it will “soon” be ready to announce if it can authorize a second COVID-19 vaccine after receiving final documents from U.S. biotech firm Moderna over the weekend.
Moderna’s new Canadian general manager — hired just three weeks ago to establish a Canadian office for the company — said Moderna’s team and Health Canada are in constant communication.
“Everybody worked really diligently all weekend,” Patricia Gauthier told The Canadian Press in an interview Monday.
She said the process is following the required course and “we’re hoping for a decision when Health Canada is ready.”
Eric Morrissette, a spokesman for Health Canada, said the documents are being reviewed as fast as possible.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency authorization for the Moderna vaccine late last week, becoming the first country to approve it. The COVID-19 vaccine is also the first Moderna product ever authorized for use.
The company was established about a decade ago specifically to work on messenger RNA technology, or mRNA.
The final documents Health Canada needed included data on manufacturing. The Canadian doses of Moderna’s vaccine are being made in Switzerland and sent to Spain for the “fill and finish” process, where six doses will be filled into each vial and the vials packed into freezers for shipping.
As many as 110,000 doses can be transported on a single pallet. Moderna intends to start shipping its vaccine to Canada within 48 hours of approval, with as many as 168,000 doses anticipated before the end of December and two million by the end of March.
Health Canada initially contracted to buy 20 million doses from Moderna, but exercised an option to buy 20 million more earlier this month, for a total of 40 million.
Gauthier said that is enough to vaccinate two-thirds of the Canadian adult population, and that there are still 16 million doses remaining for Canada to potentially buy as part of the contract. Sources not authorized to speak on the matter tell The Canadian Press a decision on whether to buy those extra doses will likely be announced this week.
The Moderna vaccine is only recommended for use on adults over the age of 18. Gauthier said clinical trials on adolescents began earlier this month and the vaccine will be tested on younger children in 2021.
Health Canada approved a vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech on Dec. 9 and vaccinations with that product began last week. It was about five days from the time the final documents were received until Pfizer got a green light, but Health Canada’s chief medical adviser Dr. Supriya Sharma has said Moderna’s production facilities are new to Health Canada and may take longer to review.
The vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna both use messenger RNA technology, which sends a genetic code to human cells to train them to create an immune response to COVID-19. Both drugmakers say the vaccines were more than 94 per cent effective at preventing infection.
But Pfizer’s technology requires the vaccine to be kept frozen between -60 C and -80 C until just before use, requiring complex shipping processes, dry ice and ultra-low-temperature freezers.
Moderna’s product can be kept stable at only -20 C and can be at room temperature for almost a month. The company said last week that where it is necessary, the vaccine can be shipped at temperatures between 2 C and 8 C.
It means Moderna’s vaccine can be more easily deployed wherever it is needed, including to the North, remote Indigenous communities and long-term care homes.
Moderna will be picked up by FedEx in Europe and shipped in freezers to Toronto, where logistics company Innomar Strategies will take possession of it.
Innomar president Guy Payette said the company will be the importer of record, run a quality assurance check on the vaccines, and then repackage the shipments into smaller amounts to be forwarded to provincial and territorial governments.
“We’re working on the assumption that it is imminent, and that we need to be ready when the vaccines get approved,” Payette told The Canadian Press.
Gauthier is now helping set up the Canadian division of Moderna, intending to hire a team of people whose first focus will be helping governments in Canada get the vaccine administered.
She says that includes efforts to communicate to Canadians the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 21, 2020.
Biden pledged to work with Canada on 'Buy American' during call with Trudeau, official says – CBC.ca
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with newly inaugurated U.S. President Joe Biden by phone Friday — the first opportunity for the two leaders to chart a fresh course for the Canada-U.S. relationship after four tumultuous years with Donald Trump.
The 30-minute phone call — Biden’s first with a foreign leader as president — was warm, friendly and collegial, according to a senior government official who spoke confidentially to CBC News because they were not authorized to speak in public about the matter.
“Many of the priorities are aligned. He’s got a good rapport with us and wants to work with us, as we do with him,” the official said.
The relationship between the two countries is widely expected to improve with Biden in the Oval Office as he and the Democratic Party share a number of political values with Trudeau and the Liberals.
According to a readout of the call from the Prime Minister’s Office, the two leaders found common ground on such issues as the COVID-19 response, economic recovery, climate change, continental security, working with Indigenous peoples and international relations. The two leaders agreed to meet again next month, the readout said, although it didn’t specify whether that meant in-person or virtually.
Trudeau expressed his disappointment with Biden’s early move to effectively cancel the Keystone XL pipeline by revoking its permit. The official said Biden acknowledged the hardship the decision would create in Canada — but defended his decision by saying he was making good on a campaign promise and restoring a decision made by the former Obama administration.
The idea of retaliatory sanctions against the U.S. — something Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has been calling for — didn’t come up during the conversation, said the official.
In a sign that Biden intends to restore close relations between the three North American economies, Biden spoke to Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador on Friday in his second call with a foreign leader. Those relationships were strained under Trump, who forced a renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement and imposed tariffs on both Canada and Mexico at various points.
Trudeau and Biden also discussed another potential area of conflict between the two countries: Biden’s commitment to including ‘Buy American’ provisions that privilege U.S. companies in future infrastructure spending plans.
The official said Biden acknowledged the deep supply chain connections between the Canadian and the U.S. economies and assured Trudeau that Canadian officials would be consulted as the policy is developed — but not that Canada would necessarily be happy with the outcome.
“Reflecting on the extraordinary and deeply interconnected economic relationship between the two countries, and with a view to promoting and protecting it, the Prime Minister and President agreed to consult closely to avoid measures that may constrain bilateral trade, supply chains, and economic growth,’ the PMO readout said.
WATCH | Can Trudeau convince Biden to reverse course on Keystone XL?
Pipeline decisions sets dangerous precedent, premiers say
The phone call came a day after Trudeau held a call with provincial and territorial premiers, several of whom pressured the PM to push back against what they called a dangerous precedent on the Keystone decision. Kenney, Ontario’s Doug Ford, Saskatchewan’s Scott Moe and Quebec’s François Legault all pressed the prime minister to take action to save Keystone.
The details of that meeting were first reported by Global News and confirmed by CBC News.
In a letter sent to Trudeau today, Kenney called for economic retaliation against the U.S. or compensation for TC Energy and the province for the loss of billions of dollars.
“By retroactively revoking the presidential permit for this project without taking the time to discuss it with their longest standing ally, the United States is setting a deeply disturbing precedent for any future projects and collaboration between our two nations,” the letter reads.
“The fact that it was a campaign promise makes it no less offensive. Our country has never surrendered our vital economic interests because a foreign government campaigned against them.”
Moe said cancelling the project would endanger North American energy security, kill jobs on both sides of the border and scare investors away from energy projects.
“It is an important piece of infrastructure and cancelling it retroactively … does have implications on the investment environment as we move forward,” Moe told CBC’s Power and Politics.
WATCH |’Sanctions are always on the table’: Premier Scott Moe
Canadian proponents of the project have argued that Canada has strong environmental regulations governing the extraction of crude oil, and that the project is much more environmentally-friendly today than it was five years ago when Obama blocked it.
On Monday, after news emerged of Biden’s plans to scuttle the pipeline, Keystone XL owner TC Energy announced it would ensure the project achieved net zero emissions upon its launch in 2023. The company added it would be fully powered by renewable energy sources no later than 2030.
In an interview airing on CBC Radio’s The House on Saturday, Canada’s Ambassador to the U.S. Kirsten Hillman said she did everything she could to make the case for the pipeline to Biden’s team.
“I personally worked hard over the last several months with Alberta, with the industry, with colleagues and in Ottawa to make the case for the Keystone XL project with the incoming Biden team, the transition team and their advisers,” Hillman told host Chris Hall.
“My view is that the decision of the Biden team is a final decision.”
WATCH |Trade war with the U.S. not in the interest of Alberta and Saskatchewan, says parliamentary secretary
Trudeau could try to extract concessions from Biden on other Canadian priorities in compensation for the domestic political punishment he’ll endure if the pipeline isn’t built, said former Liberal cabinet minister John Manley.
“If I were in his shoes, I would say, ‘Joe, I really need your help to get those two Canadians out of China,'” Manley told CBC’s Power & Politics. He was referring to Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, the Canadians imprisoned by China in December 2019 following Canada’s arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou on U.S. extradition charges.
Manley said another potential concession could come in the form of an exemption for Canada from any ‘Buy America’ legislation passed by Congress.
PM urges Canadians to cancel travel plans after data reveals 1M travelled over holidays – CTV News
After an analysis of mobile phone data revealed more than a million Canadians – the majority of whom were white and wealthy – traveled overnight during the holiday season, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said anyone with a trip still planned should “cancel it.”
Federal public health guidance has not changed regarding non-essential travel out of Canada and Trudeau, along with health officials at the local, provincial and federal level, have repeatedly issued strong warnings against vacationing at this time.
“My message to Canadians remains clear, no one should be taking a vacation abroad right now,” Trudeau said at his briefing Friday.
As March comes around the corner, the prime minister emphasized – “don’t book a trip for spring break.”
Current federal public health guidance says to avoid all non-essential trips outside of Canada, and despite several Canadian politicians being swept up in public backlash for travelling over the holidays – it turns out a substantial number of the public travelled abroad during the holidays.
Approximately 1.2 million people in Canada, many from affluent neighbourhoods, spent at least one night away from home between Dec. 23 to Dec. 30, according to mobile phone location data analysis.
The data – which was analyzed by marketing research firm Environics Analytics for The Globe and Mail – came from a database of location data comprised of 20 million mobile phones, which they then cross-referenced with census demographics and postal codes to build a profile of who was travelling.
The data shows that the vast majority who travelled were wealthy, with an average household income of approximately $118,000 per year, and 70 per cent of them were homeowners. The majority were white, with only a third belonging to racialized groups.
Environics estimates 3.3 per cent of Canadians travelled over the holidays, but most provinces saw a drop of at least 50 per cent in overnight holiday travel compared with the same period in 2019, according to The Globe and Mail report.
Minister of Public Safety Bill Blair echoed Trudeau’s words at the federal ministers COVID-19 briefing Friday.
“To be very clear, it is not the time to travel,” Blair said.
“Temporary restrictions remain on optional and discretionary travel….we will continue to strongly advise Canadians against travel abroad, unless it’s absolutely necessary,” he said, adding that the government had scaled up the presence of borderpPatrol and public health officers to ensure travelers follow quarantine protocols.
“Quarantine has been, and continues to be our most effective measure,” Blair reiterated.
Minister Dominic LeBlanc also urged Canadians to “stay close to home,” and avoid any international or even cross-Canada travel, saying the cabinet was considering even more stringent measures on anyone coming back into the country from abroad.
Currently travelers must show a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of departure to be allowed to fly into Canada, with a mandatory 14-day quarantine upon their arrival.
Canada's top judge is now acting Governor General, but expert urges speedy replacement – CTV News
Julie Payette’s resignation amid allegations of workplace harassment means that the chief justice of the Supreme Court will now assume the governor general’s powers, but a Crown expert says this temporary appointment should be as brief as possible as it presents potential conflicts.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accepted Payette’s resignation on Thursday following reports of a workplace harassment investigation that sources described to CTV News as “damaging.”
Chief Justice of Canada Richard Wagner will fulfill the role of administrator on an interim basis until Trudeau recommends a new governor general to the Queen, something Trudeau says he will do “in due course.”
Philippe Lagasse, a Carleton University expert on the Westminster system and the Crown, described Payette’s resignation as “a bit sad, really,” and stressed the importance of limiting the amount of time Wagner stays in this role.
“I have to say, as somebody who is concerned about how offices appear in public, it’s really not ideal to have the chief justice of the Supreme Court act as an administrator for any long period of time,” Lagasse told CTV’s Power Play on Thursday.
The reason: the Governor General is in charge of turning bills into law through royal assent. Having an active Supreme Court judge in this role could be potentially problematic down the road, Lagasse said.
“We can think in our constitutional metaphysics that they’re wearing a different hat when they’re providing royal assent, you can imagine that it could create discomfort on the part of the judge who wants to be seem completely and utterly impartial if ever that legislation appears before them in a constitutional or legal challenge,” he said.
Asked about the timeline to replace Payette, intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc said “obviously it’s not a question of months.”
“The constitutional role can be fulfilled as of tonight by Chief Justice Wagner and until a successor is sworn in,” LeBlanc told CTV’s Power Play.
“We obviously haven’t turned our attention to the details of how that successor would be recommended to Her Majesty, but we’ll have more to say about that in the coming days. But it’s not a circumstance that can go on for months and months.”
The Governor General holds the second-highest office in Canada after the Queen, with the role out-ranking even the prime minister. That’s because the Governor General can be called on to make decisions related to the formation of government, such as to prorogue Parliament or dissolve Parliament on the advice of a prime minister to trigger an election.
The Governor General also plays a key role in minority governments, as is the current case. If a minority government loses a confidence vote in the House of Commons, the prime minister would then have to request Parliament be dissolved. The Governor General then has the discretion whether to agree to that, and call an election, or allow another party in the House to attempt to form a government that would have the confidence of the House.
For example, in 2008, Stephen Harper asked then-Governor General Michaelle Jean to prorogue Parliament to avoid a non-confidence vote that he was expected to lose, which she allowed.
Everything considered, Lagasse said it’s in the country’s best interests to appoint a new Governor General pronto.
“To the extent possible, we should have a full-on governor general appointed as soon as possible, given the possibility of an election on the horizon,” he said.
“And ultimately, I would imagine the chief justice is not really keen on the idea of having to make some of these decisions and make some of the calls, particularly if another election returns another hung Parliament, and if there’s controversy around a dissolution of Parliament in the middle of a pandemic. These are all things that I imagine the chief justice doesn’t want to be particularly involved with either.”
CTV royal commentator Richard Berthelsen said that the Governor General plays a critical constitutional role in Canada as a representative of the Queen, but is also seen as a moral leader.
“So this really was a day that, in a lot of ways, had to happen. It’s sad that it has happened, but the report has left everyone with no alternative,” Berthelsen told CTV News Channel.
With files from CTV’s Rachel Aiello in Ottawa and The Canadian Press
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