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Ottawa forges ahead with vaccine strategy; health committee dismisses minister – iPolitics.ca

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Ottawa is pushing ahead with its plan to roll out a limited supply of COVID-19 vaccines in the spring.

The news was in an update by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Canada’s chief public health officer, Theresa Tam, on the progress Ottawa has made so far in procuring vaccines for Canadians.

Trudeau said obtaining vaccines is a “top priority,” and to increase the chances of getting the right one, Ottawa is sourcing different ones from around the world.

“We have to have a very sophisticated plan to be able to roll out vaccines the right way,” the prime minister said from Ottawa on Friday. “There are many, many conversations to be had about who gets those first doses of vaccines.”

Some of the first vaccines to become available have presented extreme logistical challenges, Trudeau said. For example, some must be stored below -80 C, making their mass distribution to pharmacies impractical.

Tam said she remains “cautiously optimistic” a vaccine will be ready in the first quarter of 2021, bringing Canada “one step closer to the widespread and long-term management of COVID-19.” 

The government has long said that, once approved, vaccines won’t be immediately available nationwide.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization provided preliminary guidance on these “tough decisions,” Tam said, including who should get the shot first: people at high risk of infection; those likely to have severe outcomes; essential workers; and people living or working in conditions that put them at higher risk of infection, such as Indigenous communities.

Because clinical trials are still underway, Tam said there’s still a “long road ahead” before a vaccine can be submitted to Health Canada for approval. 

But a shortage might not be a concern, once a vaccine is approved.

A Mainstreet Research poll last week suggested that if a vaccine were available in January, only 23 per cent of Canadians would want to get the shot immediately. More men than women would get it immediately: 25.7 per cent compared to 20.6 per cent of women.

Conservative health critic Michelle Rempel Garner told iPolitics she’s concerned by recent polling that also suggests Canadians would wait a few months before getting immunized.

READ MORE: More calls for transparency as feds request help to distribute COVID vaccine

Work to acquire freezers, syringes, and other equipment necessary to distribute the vaccines is ongoing, said Dr. Howard Njoo, the deputy chief officer of public health who was also at Friday’s briefing.

“You wouldn’t believe what’s happening behind the scenes,” he said.

Also on Friday, the House of Commons health committee prevented federal Health Minister Patty Hadju from testifying because she couldn’t appear for the required two hours.

The committee had planned to meet from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. to question the minister and health officials, including Tam, on health-related pandemic spending.

The committee was kept from starting the meeting on time because the government scheduled a vote in the House, delaying the meeting for over an hour. When the meeting did start, Hadju said she could only stay for another hour, from 3 to 4:00 p.m., to the chagrin of NDP and Conservative MPs on the committee.

Rempel Garner said the meeting must be rescheduled, and at a time when the minister can appear for two hours.

“This motion says she has to be here for a minimum of two hours,” New Democrat MP Don Davies agreed.

Liberal MP Mike Kelloway said he was “blown away” that opposition members wouldn’t let the minister and departmental staff speak for the first hour. Instead of wasting the time, the committee could have used the hour and had the minister back for an additional hour, he said.

But Davies maintained that because the minister couldn’t stay for two hours, the motion couldn’t proceed.

The committee spent the remaining time debating when it could have the minister appear, before voting in favour of a motion to request her appearance next week for two consecutive hours.

With files from Janet Silver.

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COVID-19 cases in Canada remain on troubling course, Tam says, amid rising numbers – NiagaraFallsReview.ca

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Canada remains on a troubling path for new COVID-19 infections as case counts continue to mount, the country’s top doctor said Saturday.

The most recent infection rates indicate Canada is on track to hit as many as 10,000 new cases a day by next month, Dr. Theresa Tam said.

“If we continue on the current pace, our longer range models continue to forecast significant increases in daily case counts and estimate that there could be up to 10,000 cases reported daily by mid-December,” Tam said in a written statement.

“Right now, we have a window of opportunity to act collectively together with public health authorities to bring the infection rate down to a safer trajectory.”

Canada is currently recording caseloads at about half that level, with the most recent seven-day average standing at 5,335 between Nov. 20 and Nov. 26.

Tam said Canada is also averaging 76 deaths a day and more than 2,100 people in hospital.

People 80 years and older are experiencing Canada’s highest COVID-19 death rate, and there are now more and larger outbreaks in long-term care facilities, hospitals, group living settings, Indigenous communities and remote areas, she said.

“Those developments are deeply concerning as they put countless Canadians at risk of life-threatening illness, cause serious disruptions to health services and present significant challenges for areas not adequately equipped to manage complex medical emergencies,” Tam said.

Her assessment came as case counts continued to soar in numerous provinces.

Quebec set a new single-day record with 1,480 new infections Saturday as the provincial death toll crossed the 7,000 threshold.

Alberta also broke its own record, reporting 1,731 new cases of the virus on Saturday. It also counted five new deaths.

Ontario logged case numbers just shy of Friday’s one-day record as it reported 1,822 new diagnoses in the past 24 hours.

Case numbers also jumped sharply in Manitoba, where officials recorded 487 new infections and 10 new deaths.

Among those who died was a boy under the age of 10, officials said, though they offered no other details.

Saskatchewan reported 197 COVID-19 cases and one death Saturday.

The province ordered the suspension of team sports earlier this week until Dec. 17 after confirmed COVID-19 cases among several minor and recreational hockey teams.

The Saskatchewan suspension applies to hockey and curling leagues and dance studios.

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The Saskatchewan Health Authority posted notices Saturday of COVID-19 exposure risks at curling and recreation centres at Christopher Lake and Shellbrook. Those curling or socializing at either of the two facilities last month must self-isolate for 14 days, the health authority said.

In British Columbia, Fraser Health announced the closure of an elementary school in Surrey after confirming 16 COVID-19 cases.

Newton Elementary School will close for two weeks, said Fraser Health.

B.C. reported a daily record of 911 COVID-19 cases Friday. The province will update its numbers Monday.

People must continue to practise physical distancing, frequent hand washing and staying home as much as possible, said a newly appointed member of B.C. Premier John Horgan’s cabinet.

“I just think it’s important for us to be thoughtful and caring, but at the same time it’s critical that people follow the rules because it’s vital to be able to keep our schools open and keep as many of our business open as possible,” said Ravi Kahlon, whose ministry includes economic recovery.

Figures from New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador show more modest increases of four and two cases, respectively.

Prince Edward Island reported two new COVID-19 cases, but they involved young males aged 10 and 19.

There were 14 new cases in Nova Scotia and five COVID-19 cases in Nunavut.

Tam redoubled her calls for Canadians to heed public health advice, limit their social interactions and practice physical distancing in a bid to bring surging case counts under control.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 28, 2020.

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COVID-19 cases in Canada remain on troubling course, Tam says – CTV News

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Canada remains on a troubling path for new COVID-19 infections as case counts continue to mount, the country’s top doctor said Saturday.

The most recent infection rates indicate Canada is on track to hit as many as 10,000 new cases a day by next month, Dr. Theresa Tam said.

“If we continue on the current pace, our longer range models continue to forecast significant increases in daily case counts and estimate that there could be up to 10,000 cases reported daily by mid-December,” Tam said in a written statement.

“Right now, we have a window of opportunity to act collectively together with public health authorities to bring the infection rate down to a safer trajectory.”

Canada is currently recording caseloads at about half that level, with the most recent seven-day average standing at 5,335 between Nov. 20 and Nov. 26.

Tam said Canada is also averaging 76 deaths a day and more than 2,100 people in hospital.

People 80 years and older are experiencing Canada’s highest COVID-19 death rate, and there are now more and larger outbreaks in long-term care facilities, hospitals, group living settings, Indigenous communities and remote areas, she said.

“Those developments are deeply concerning as they put countless Canadians at risk of life-threatening illness, cause serious disruptions to health services and present significant challenges for areas not adequately equipped to manage complex medical emergencies,” Tam said.

Her assessment came as case counts continued to soar in numerous provinces.

Quebec set a new single-day record with 1,480 new infections Saturday as the provincial death toll crossed the 7,000 threshold.

Alberta also broke its own record, reporting 1,731 new cases of the virus on Saturday. It also counted five new deaths.

Ontario logged case numbers just shy of Friday’s one-day record as it reported 1,822 new diagnoses in the past 24 hours.

Case numbers also jumped sharply in Manitoba, where officials recorded 487 new infections and 10 new deaths.

Among those who died was a boy under the age of 10, officials said, though they offered no other details.

Saskatchewan reported 197 COVID-19 cases and one death Saturday.

The province ordered the suspension of team sports earlier this week until Dec. 17 after confirmed COVID-19 cases among several minor and recreational hockey teams.

The Saskatchewan suspension applies to hockey and curling leagues and dance studios.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority posted notices Saturday of COVID-19 exposure risks at curling and recreation centres at Christopher Lake and Shellbrook. Those curling or socializing at either of the two facilities last month must self-isolate for 14 days, the health authority said.

In British Columbia, Fraser Health announced the closure of an elementary school in Surrey after confirming 16 COVID-19 cases.

Newton Elementary School will close for two weeks, said Fraser Health.

B.C. reported a daily record of 911 COVID-19 cases Friday. The province will update its numbers Monday.

People must continue to practise physical distancing, frequent hand washing and staying home as much as possible, said a newly appointed member of B.C. Premier John Horgan’s cabinet.

“I just think it’s important for us to be thoughtful and caring, but at the same time it’s critical that people follow the rules because it’s vital to be able to keep our schools open and keep as many of our business open as possible,” said Ravi Kahlon, whose ministry includes economic recovery.

Figures from New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador show more modest increases of four and two cases, respectively.

Prince Edward Island reported two new COVID-19 cases, but they involved young males aged 10 and 19.

There were 14 new cases in Nova Scotia and five COVID-19 cases in Nunavut.

Tam redoubled her calls for Canadians to heed public health advice, limit their social interactions and practice physical distancing in a bid to bring surging case counts under control.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 28, 2020.

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'Everything is looking good' for COVID-19 vaccine, but steps remain: uOttawa infectious disease specialist – Newstalk 1010 (iHeartRadio)

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A University of Ottawa infectious disease specialist suggests the prime minister’s goal to vaccinate a majority of Canadians by next September “may be reasonable” given there are several COVID-19 vaccine candidates.

Dr. Earl Brown says that while everything is looking good for a COVID-19 vaccine, Health Canada has not approved a vaccine for use in Canada yet.

As the premiers urge the federal government to provide timelines on when a COVID-19 vaccine will be available to the provinces, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his target is to immunize more than half of all Canadians by September, 2021.

“That may be optimistic, but that may be reasonable given that we’ve got three vaccine candidates,” said Dr. Brown, a former member of the H1N1 vaccine task group in Canada.

“The fact is there is no vaccine; a vaccine is a medicine, which is licenced for use in Canada on humans and it would have a drug number.  Nothing like that exists. Now, maybe it will in a week, two weeks, a month, a few weeks.”

During an interview on CTV News at Six with anchor Stefan Keyes, Dr. Brown said there are three very “promising” vaccine candidates, based on the press releases and published phase one and two trials.

“Everything is looking good, but you really have to know that you’ve got a vaccine that’s passed muster, and we don’t know that yet. So we can’t count our chickens before they hatch,” said Dr. Brown, noting officials are demanding timelines for delivery before the vaccine receives approval.

“You really want to know you’ve got something before you go committing yourself. Those are the realities of being careful before you move, and we’re doing the minimum care – which is it has to be passing Health Canada review and get approved.”

Health Canada says Canada’s first COVID-19 vaccine could be approved before Christmas. Chief Medical Adviser Dr. Supriya Sharma said the review of the Pfizer vaccine candidate is the most advanced.

This week, the federal government suggested three million Canadians could receive the COVID-19 vaccine by the end of March.

“If we can vaccinate three million health care workers, long-term care facility residents alone between now and the end of March, that’s a tremendous feat,” said Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Abdu Sharkawy, during an interview with CTV News Ottawa.

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches told Newstalk 580 CFRA this week that the top priority for the COVID-19 vaccine in Ottawa when it arrives is preventing hospitalizations and deaths, especially in long-term care homes.

VACCINE PRODUCTION CAPACITY IN CANADA

Prime Minister Trudeau told reporters that Canada no longer has production capacity to produce life-saving vaccines.

Appearing on CTV’s Your Morning this week, Dr. Brown said Canadian administrations simply took their “eye off the ball” for vaccine production.

Keyes asked Brown if it’s too late for Canada to get back in the game for a COVID-19 vaccine.

“Well it’s too late on the short term for this pandemic, but we got to get back in to the game. We have to have a readiness to respond to a pandemic with a vaccine,” said Brown Saturday evening

“So our vaccine facilities have essentially dwindled in Canada and so we aren’t able to make a set of vaccine. We should be able to make enough vaccine to give everybody two shots –76 million doses thereabouts. So we should plan to be able to do that within a year with some standing facility.”

Brown adds it’s very tough to do anything financially with a vaccine facility.

“It’s very hard to sell a vaccine or make money on vaccines if that’s what you want to do in the meantime between pandemics.”

Brown says Canada will need to come up with a plan for the future.

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