Justin Trudeau’s government now finds itself accused of procuring both too few doses of a COVID-19 vaccine and too many. On Friday, the prime minister tried to focus the attention of Canadians on the idea that within the next seven months Canada will at least have enough doses.
In the middle of all that remains an unanswered question about whether there is anything that could have been done to ensure Canada had a better amount of doses right now.
There is, Trudeau said, a “lot of noise going on right now.”
Some of that noise relates to the Trudeau government’s decision to accept some of its allotment from the World Health Organization’s COVAX program. Through that cost-sharing program, richer countries can contribute funds that are used to purchase vaccine doses for both the donating country and poorer countries. Last year, for instance, Canada pledged $440 million to COVAX. Half of that would go towards purchasing vaccines for Canada, the other half would go towards purchasing doses for low-income and middle-income countries.
The Trudeau government says it always planned to access its share of those vaccines and it now expects to receive 1.9 million doses through COVAX by the end of June. But with much of the developing world still struggling to get access to a vaccine, critics now charge that Canada should at least wait to accept that allotment.
For the sake of achieving an equitable distribution of vaccines across all countries, there is an altruistic case for Canada forgoing those doses. Though, by the same principle, it might be asked whether Canada should have already redirected some of the one million doses that it has received directly from vaccine manufacturers Pfizer and Moderna.
The fundamental problems with this every-country-for-itself scramble for vaccines shouldn’t be forgotten amid the understandable desperation to see Canadians vaccinated faster. But neither the Conservatives nor the New Democrats have gone so far as to suggest that Canada should take a pass on those 1.9 million doses from COVAX (only Green leader Annamie Paul has called for that). The main opposition parties instead framed their criticism as a lament that taking the allotment from COVAX is even necessary.
Contracts remain private
Trudeau repeated on Friday that his government still expects this country to receive six million doses by the end of March, 20 million doses through the spring and enough to vaccinate every Canadian by the end of September. But those promises are not nearly enough to drown out the noise and anxiety over the recent trickle of vaccine into this country: as evidenced by the recent hit to Trudeau’s public image.
The operative question in response to that slowdown is whether the Trudeau government should have done something different in the last 12 months that would have foreseeably resulted in more Canadians being vaccinated by now.
It has at least been established that angry phone calls to the top executives at Pfizer do not necessarily result in more doses being shipped: at least when the problem is related to the need to retool a plant in Belgium.
Could Canada get vaccines from manufacturing plants in the United States? Suffice to say, the Biden administration does not seem interested in sharing.
Did the Trudeau government wait too long to sign contracts with vaccine suppliers? According to the Procurement Minister Anita Anand, Canada was the first country to come to an agreement with Moderna and the fourth country to make a deal with Pfizer.
Could the government have negotiated better terms? Unfortunately, pharmaceutical companies insist that the details of those contracts are confidential. Anand did at least confirm this week that Canada’s shipments are guaranteed on a quarterly, not weekly, basis.
Hearings being conducted by the industry committee of the House of Commons this week did manage to dig deeper into the government’s understanding and approach.
Much of the second-guessing is now understandably focused on the question of domestic capacity to produce a COVID-19 vaccine. It stands to reason that Canada might have a greater and more stable supply of vaccines if Canada didn’t have to depend on the same facilities in Europe that other countries are receiving vaccines from.
Anand told the industry committee on Thursday that the government “proactively and repeatedly” raised the possibility of using or creating domestic capacity when it was negotiating with vaccine suppliers. Unfortunately, the companies didn’t see a desirable way forward in Canada.
10 years late to build domestic capacity
“The manufacturers reviewed the identified assets here in Canada and concluded that bio-manufacturing assets at the time of contracting, which was last August and September, was too limited to justify the investment of capital and expertise to start manufacturing in Canada,” she said.
“The reality is that standing up new manufacturing of a vaccine requires expertise. It requires resources from the supplier. And given the scarcity of resources, suppliers emphasized locations that had existing capacity and would be able to manufacture quickly at a global scale.”
Anand was asked specifically about AstraZeneca, which has seemed open to establishing production in other countries, and she said the answer was basically the same.
Could Canada have replicated the success of the United Kingdom, which increased its domestic capacity in relatively short order?
“My ministry did an extensive survey of the bio-manufacturing capabilities in Canada … This was very early last spring, in the early days of the pandemic,” Simon Kennedy, the deputy minister at the department of innovation told the industry committee.
“The U.K. had a number of very large contract manufacturing operators that were capable of quickly shipping to produce COVID vaccines. The U.K. had also started years before the pandemic, in fact in 2017, to launch a significant re-building strategy. They did the permitting and launched the construction for one of the big facilities they’re building—which won’t be ready until later this year—in 2019, a year before the pandemic hit. As minister [Francois-Phillippe] Champagne had said, the U.K. certainly pivoted and was able to do manufacturing domestically, but they were starting from a much higher base.”
In his own opening statement, Champagne stressed how much Canada’s domestic pharmaceutical manufacturing had declined over the last four decades.
Rob Van Exan, a biologist and a former executive with Sanofi Pasteur, estimates that it might take a year to produce the current mRNA vaccines, like those now produced by Pfizer and Moderna, through the expansion of an existing facility like Sanofi’s existing plant in Toronto. To build an entirely new facility it might take 18 months. Perhaps other experts could imagine slightly different timelines, but as Van Exan told CBC Radio’s The Current this week, the best time to start thinking about increasing domestic capacity was ten years ago.
Fuller airing of options needed
The Trudeau government did put funds toward a facility run by the National Research Council in Montreal last August, but that facility isn’t expected to be ready to produce protein-based vaccines by Noravax until later this year.
As Champagne explained to the industry committee, the government solicited applications for vaccine projects through the Strategic Investment Fund. Those applications were then reviewed by the government’s vaccine task force, composed of academic and industry experts.
All of the government’s claims will presumably be tested as committee hearings continue. But what is likely required now is a fuller airing of what options the task force considered, what advice it provided and why. Was some golden opportunity missed? Could the government have moved faster? Was it’s thinking sound? Was there some out-of-the-box idea that should’ve been pursued?
If this government was more inclined to explaining itself, more of that information might already be available.
Granted, Canadians might not be happy even if it turns out that Canada’s current situation wasn’t eminently avoidable.
But Trudeau is also surely banking on a hope that the anxiety and noise will recede if the promised doses start to pile up over the coming weeks; that a difficult few weeks in February will feel like a distant memory if nearly every Canadian is vaccinated by this fall.
The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada – Yahoo News Canada
Local Journalism Initiative
Lloydminster RCMP arrested three men from Onion Lake and Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation and a youth after a pursuit and charged them with numerous weapons and drug-related offences. On Feb. 25 at about 12 p.m. Lloydminster RCMP General Investigations Section members located a stolen vehicle in Lloydminster, which was connected to a prior serious occurrence in the area. Police attempted to stop the vehicle north of Lloydminster but the vehicle fled. RCMP from Lloydminster, the North Battleford RCMP Crime Reduction Team and Lloydminster Police Dog Services located and arrested the occupants of the vehicle shortly afterwards. When police searched the vehicle they recovered large amounts of drugs, firearms and weapons. Matthew Stanley, 27, Kashtin Sandfly, 21, both of Onion Lake Cree Nation, Samuel Kiseyinewakup, 19, of Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation, and a young offender were arrested. The young offender can’t be identified in accordance with the Youth Criminal Justice Act. Stanley was charged with flight from a peace officer, driving while prohibited, dangerous operation of motor vehicle, possession of a weapon contrary to an order, obstruction of a peace officer, possession of a restricted firearm without a license, possession of a firearm in a motor vehicle, possession of property obtained by crime less than $5,000, possession of controlled substance for the purpose of trafficking, possession of property obtained by crime for the purpose of trafficking under $5,000, possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose, careless use of a firearm, unauthorized possession of a weapon, and possession of a controlled substance (Methamphetamine). Stanley was remanded in custody and is scheduled to appear in Lloydminster, Alta., Provincial Court on March 16, 2021. Sandfly was charged with flight from a peace officer, possession of restricted firearm without a licence, possession of a firearm in a motor vehicle, possession of property obtained by crime less than $5,000, possession of a controlled substance for the purpose of trafficking, possession of property obtained by crime for the purpose of trafficking under $5,000, possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose, possession of a firearm knowing the possession is unauthorized, unauthorized possession of a firearm, careless use of a firearm, and possession of a controlled substance (Methamphetamine). Kiseyinewakup was charged with flight from a peace officer, possession of a restricted firearm without a licence, possession of a firearm in a motor vehicle, possession of property obtained by crime less than $5,000, possession of a controlled substance for the purpose of trafficking, possession of property obtained by crime for the purpose of trafficking under $5,000, possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose, unauthorized possession of a firearm, careless use of a firearm, possession of a controlled substance (Methamphetamine), and possession of a weapon contrary to an order. The 17-year-old youth from Big Island Lake Cree Territory, Sask. was charged with flight from a peace officer, possession of a restricted firearm without a licence, possession of a firearm in a motor vehicle, possession of property obtained by crime less than $5,000, possession of a controlled substance for the purpose of trafficking, possession of property obtained by crime for the purpose of trafficking under $5,000, possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose, careless use of a firearm, possession of a controlled substance (Methamphetamine), possession of a weapon contrary to an order, and failing to comply with conditions of a release order. The youth was released by a Justice of the Peace on a release order and is scheduled to appear in Lloydminster Alta. Provincial Youth court on March 15, 2021. Sandfly and Kiseyinewakup were released by a Justice of the Peace, however, both failed to appear in court on March 2, and arrest warrants were issued. Lisa Joy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist
Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Saturday – CBC.ca
Some provinces are speeding up plans to get people inoculated against COVID-19, following the approval of a fourth vaccine and increased supplies.
Those adjusting their timetables for vaccine rollouts include Ontario. The head of the province’s COVID-19 task force, retired general Rick Hillier, said on Friday he hopes everyone who wants a vaccine will get one by the start of summer.
He said all adults in Ontario could receive the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by June 20 now that extra doses are on their way to Canada.
On Friday, federal officials announced expedited shipments of 3.5 million doses of the COVID-19 shot from Pfizer-BioNTech, the same day Health Canada approved Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine candidate, which is not expected to ship before April.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Pfizer doses originally set to arrive in the summer would instead be delivered over the spring. He said Canada should have eight million doses available of several vaccine types by the end of March.
WATCH | Ontario to accelerate inoculations as vaccine supply ramps up:
Meanwhile, Manitoba announced that all eligible adults in the province could have at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by mid-May or the end of June at the latest.
In New Brunswick, chief medical officer of health Dr. Jennifer Russell said Friday that with the expected arrival of the province’s first shipment of the two-dose AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine later this month, New Brunswick is pledging to provide one dose of COVID-19 vaccine to every New Brunswicker before the end of June.
Alberta has also revised its estimates around vaccines, with Health Minister Tyler Shandro saying on Thursday that the province expects “to have offered every single adult in the province at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine” by June 30.
What’s happening in Canada
As of 10:15 a.m. ET on Saturday, Canada had reported 882,756 cases of COVID-19, with 29,978 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 22,198.
Nova Scotia Premier Iain Rankin called the federal go-ahead for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine a “positive step forward” on Friday, as health officials geared up for the opening of the first of 10 community inoculation clinics across the province next week.
Rankin confirmed that the province would be adopting a 16-week interval between the first and second doses, so all Nova Scotians who want to be vaccinated will get one shot by the end of June.
WATCH | Canadian researchers looking for ways to cut down PPE waste:
Health officials in Newfoundland and Labrador reported one new case of COVID-19 on Friday and announced that four testing centres will be accepting appointments for asymptomatic people to get tested.
Ontario, which reported 990 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday and six additional deaths, is planning to loosen restrictions next week in Toronto and Peel Region, lifting a strict stay-at-home order imposed earlier this year.
WATCH | Three trans women of colour on dealing with pandemic isolation:
The two regions, along with North Bay-Parry Sound, were the last ones still under the order, while most of the province transitioned back to the government’s colour-coded pandemic response framework last month.
Toronto and Peel will be placed in the strictest “grey lockdown” category of the framework starting Monday, as was recommended by public health officials in the two areas. North Bay, meanwhile, will be placed in the red zone, the second-most restrictive level of pandemic measures.
Quebec reported 798 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday and 10 additional deaths. Hospitalizations stood at 617, with 111 COVID-19 patients in the province’s intensive care units, according to a provincial dashboard.
Manitoba reported 54 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, along with one related death.
Saskatchewan reported 207 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, along with two related deaths.
Alberta reported 411 new cases of COVID-19 and two related deaths on Friday.
British Columbia reported 634 new cases of COVID-19 and four related deaths on Friday.
Across the North, Nunavut reported four new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, all of them in the hamlet of Arviat.
What’s happening around the world
As of Saturday morning, more than 116.1 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported around the world, with more than 65.6 million of the cases listed on the Johns Hopkins University tracking site as resolved. The global death toll stood at more than 2.5 million.
Saudi Arabia will end most coronavirus-related restrictions on Sunday, including resuming indoor dining, reopening cinemas and resuming entertainment activities and events, the state news agency SPA said on Saturday.
Some activities will remain banned, including weddings and corporate meetings. Social gatherings will continue to be limited to a maximum of 20 people, SPA said, citing an Interior Ministry source.
In Japan, about 70 anti-Olympics protesters gathered and marched in central Tokyo on Saturday to call for the cancellation of the Olympic Games this summer.
The protest march started from National Stadium where the opening ceremony for the Games is planned, and went through the busy shopping street of Omote Sando.
Protesters held banners and shouted slogans denouncing the Olympics and Paralympics.
“We think it is too reckless to hold Olympics in this situation,” said one protester, Yoko Kataoka, citing the country’s not-contained COVID-19 situation.
The Olympics are scheduled for July 23 to Aug. 8 and the Paralympics from Aug. 24 to Sept. 5.
WATCH | WHO says patents should be waived to get more vaccine made in more countries:
In Germany, supermarket chain Aldi began selling coronavirus home testing kits on Saturday. They are only available directly at the supermarket checkout and are limited to one pack per customer. Each contains five rapid tests and costs about 25 euros ($37 Cdn.)
In some cases, long queues formed in front of many supermarket stores and supplies quickly sold out. Other German supermarket chains, such as Lidl, Rewe and Edeka, also plan to offer rapid tests soon.
So far, seven brands of home testing kits have been granted the special permission.
A behind-the-scenes look at why Canada delayed 2nd doses of COVID-19 vaccines – CBC.ca
This is an excerpt from Second Opinion, a weekly roundup of health and medical science news emailed to subscribers every Saturday morning. If you haven’t subscribed yet, you can do that by clicking here.
Danuta Skowronski was poring over Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine data on a Friday night in mid-December when she had an “aha!” moment.
The epidemiology lead at the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control realized she could actually “correct” the data Pfizer had submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on the effectiveness of just one dose of its vaccine.
In clinical trials, Pfizer couldn’t accurately determine the efficacy of a single shot because participants had already received their second dose after three weeks, and there was no comparative one-dose study done.
But Skowronski, who has been working on vaccine effectiveness analyses for more than 15 years, realized the company had included in its analysis the two-week time period immediately after vaccination — before the body’s immune response typically kicks in.
She told CBC News vaccines are never expected to protect “instantaneously,” and that there is always a “grace period” of a couple of weeks that factors into vaccine effectiveness.
“What we found was that they were underestimating the efficacy of the first dose, and rather than the efficacy being 52 per cent, it was actually 92 per cent, ” she said. “For us, that was a game changer.”
The finding led the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) to change the recommended time between doses of COVID-19 vaccines from three weeks to an unprecedented four months.
B.C. announced it would be delaying second doses earlier this week. Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, Manitoba and Newfoundland and Labrador quickly followed suit.
Canada is now an outlier in the global vaccination rollout. No other country in the world has delayed second doses up to four months, and there is no evidence yet on the long-term effect it could have on immunity to COVID-19.
Some scientists say we are venturing into uncharted waters. Others are comfortable with the risk.
Why is Canada delaying second doses?
NACI says if second doses are stretched to four months across the country starting this month, close to 80 per cent of Canadians over 16 could get at least one shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine by the end of June.
But Canada’s chief science adviser, Mona Nemer, says the decision to delay doses amounted to a “population level experiment.”
“The comment from the chief science adviser was most unfortunate,” said Skowronski. “It did not reflect the careful risk-benefit analysis that went into this decision, and frankly, that is a science and an art to be able to do that.”
But aside from a vague reference to “real-world effectiveness” from Canada and other countries in NACI’s recommendations, little evidence has been communicated to Canadians to convince them that the change in vaccine rollout strategy is the right move.
NACI says its decision to delay second doses is based on emerging real-world data from Quebec, B.C., Israel, the U.K. and the U.S. that showed “good effectiveness” of between 70 and 80 per cent from a single dose of the vaccines “for up to two months in some studies.”
But it also makes clear that these studies haven’t yet collected four months of data on the long-term effectiveness of a single dose, meaning NACI is betting on the “high levels of protection” shown so far.
“It’s shown us really good vaccine effectiveness two months after receipt of the first dose and that the effectiveness isn’t decreasing over time,” Dr. Shelley Deeks, vice-chair of NACI and a lead author of the recommendations, said in an interview.
“After looking at it from all of these angles, and given that we are in a situation of limited supply, the committee came to a strong consensus that we recommend the interval to be extended to four months.”
Deeks said NACI will continue monitoring vaccine effectiveness data as it comes out around the world to determine if it needs to further alter its recommendations — meaning another change to Canada’s vaccine rollout strategy is possible.
“If we need to reassess and revise the recommendations, we will,” she said. “But this will allow more Canadians to receive the first dose and have a vaccine in a more timely manner and will have an impact on serious disease.”
‘Not based on evidence’
The move has effectively doubled Canada’s doses of COVID-19 vaccines overnight, but some scientists are critical of the move to experiment with delaying intervals.
“The decision is not based on evidence. It’s really based on an extrapolation of the evidence,” said Brad Wouters, executive vice-president of science and research at the University Health Network in Toronto.
“We’ve only been giving this vaccine for two months, so we don’t have data out to four months — no one in the world has been waiting four months for a second dose.”
WATCH | The science behind delaying the 2nd dose of COVID-19 vaccines:
Wouters says it’s unclear if the delay will impact the effectiveness of the second dose, and the decision comes with a lot of uncertainty in the months ahead.
Skowronski says once good protection is established, it doesn’t suddenly disappear or “fall of a cliff.” Instead, protection against a disease wanes gradually after a vaccination, which buys researchers time to “re-evaluate the optimal timing of the second dose.”
She said that longer intervals between a first and a second dose of a vaccine are generally preferred because shorter intervals can interfere with the immune boost response and longer intervals are often associated with ultimately higher antibody levels.
Alyson Kelvin, an assistant professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax and virologist at the Canadian Center for Vaccinology, says the clinical trials on COVID-19 vaccines ran with the shortest time frame possible so they could get data out quickly, but previous studies on other vaccines show longer intervals are generally better.
Skowronski says it’s unclear why Pfizer went with a three-week interval for their clinical trials, but it may have been due to pressure to get the vaccine out or because they didn’t expect to have such good protection with the first dose.
“The only reason to go with a shorter interval is if you don’t get good protection with the first dose, and a second dose administered sooner could top it up a lot,” Skowronski said.
“That’s a scenario that we are not dealing with here. We’re getting excellent protection after the first dose, and we have a clear and present danger threat now with ongoing elevated pandemic disease risk on top of that scarcity of vaccine supply.”
Lack of clear communication for Canadians
While Skowronski is confident delaying the second dose is the right move for Canada, she and other experts feel the communication to Canadians from NACI on the decision could have been more clear.
She said it’s important to stress to Canadians that they still need a second dose eventually to have as much protection from COVID-19 as possible and that they should take any vaccine offered to them to combat its spread.
WATCH | The evidence is there for the ‘concept of further delay’ of second doses: Dr. Naylor:
Dr. David Naylor, who co-chairs the federal government’s COVID-19 immunity task force, said the decision to delay doses is “defensible,” but agreed the decision could have been explained much more clearly to Canadians.
“There didn’t seem to be an organized communications strategy overall,” he said.
“The unhappy result is that a decision which might have been welcomed as a wider tide lifting many more boats and helping us end the epidemic more quickly has instead caused a real undercurrent of anxiety. I hope that subsequent communications will clear the air.”
Wouters says he worries about how Canadians will interpret the move to delay doses given the limited understanding the average person might have on the issue.
“There wasn’t a lot of information about why the decision was made, what the evidence was, what the process was,” he said. “There could certainly be a lot more transparency around the process and how that was done.”
Dr. Allison McGeer, a medical microbiologist and infectious disease specialist at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital, says there is “overwhelming” evidence in favour of second doses.
“People who haven’t spent time in vaccination and thinking about vaccination are always really anxious about the stuff you don’t know in the future with vaccines,” she said.
“I’m comfortable with those uncertainties, and with the fact that we can deal with them when we get there. But if you’re not comfortable with that, there is a tendency to really worry about the potential consequences of doing that.”
Skowronski says Canadians should expect health experts to adapt to and absorb emerging evidence as it becomes available and incorporate that into recommendations.
“You don’t do business as usual in the midst of a crisis,” she said. “You don’t want experts that are holding steadfast to an earlier opinion or viewpoint while knowledge has amassed and moved on.
“You want your experts keeping pace with those developments and making decisions based on what is known as time evolves, especially during a dynamic crisis like an unfolding pandemic.”
To read the entire Second Opinion newsletter every Saturday morning, subscribe by clicking here.
The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada – Yahoo News Canada
Social Media Buzz: Crypto Mogul Bids $2 Million for Dorsey Tweet – BNN
To Juice the Economy, Biden Bets on the Poor – The New York Times
Silver investment demand jumped 12% in 2019
Iran anticipates renewed protests amid social media shutdown
Galaxy M31 July 2020 security update brings Glance, a content-driven lockscreen wallpaper service
Investment16 hours ago
Investment advisor at Canaccord Genuity charged in Vancouver pizzeria confrontation – CTV News Vancouver
Sports18 hours ago
Why the Toronto Maple Leafs should make a push for Taylor Hall before the trade deadline – Maple Leafs Hot Stove
Economy11 hours ago
Canada’s Ivey PMI climbs to six-month high as employment improves
News23 hours ago
India's top diplomat touts improved relations with Canada, open to sending more vaccines – CTV News
News20 hours ago
Canada spent $24M on COVID-19 vaccines received in January: StatCan – CTV News
Business23 hours ago
Toronto, Peel and North Bay-Parry Sound Public Health Regions Returning to Strengthened COVID-19 Response Framework – Government of Ontario News
News13 hours ago
Canada approves J&J’s COVID-19 vaccine, moves up some Pfizer deliveries
Science23 hours ago
Local COVID count up 24, active cases climb to 122 – BlackburnNews.com