As some provinces push for clarity on when they will receive their share of Canada’s COVID-19 vaccines, one expert said Monday the government should be more transparent about the terms of its contracts with the companies making the shots.
Kerry Bowman, who teaches bioethics and global health at the University of Toronto, said it’s likely Ottawa doesn’t have the information the provinces are seeking regarding the timing and quantity of vaccine deliveries, particularly if its contracts with drugmakers are conditional.
But if that’s the case, he said, the federal government should state it clearly or risk eroding public trust in its system.
While news that COVID-19 immunizations could begin in some countries in a matter of weeks is good for Canada in the long term, it will lead to widespread frustration in the near future if the country is lagging behind, he added.
“There’s benefits to all of humankind, no matter who’s getting it,” he said.
Still, “if two weeks from now, the news is full of us watching people all over the world being inoculated, including the United States, and we’re not, there’s going to be some very unhappy Canadians.”
As well, he said, any delay in immunization translates to more COVID-19 cases and deaths, and mounting economic strain.
“People will die and other people’s lives will continue to be ruined until we pull out of it. And so, to me, whether it’s this month or that month (that we get the vaccine) is not irrelevant — it’s highly relevant,” he said.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford renewed his calls Monday for a clear delivery date for the province’s share of vaccines, stressing that “the clock is ticking” when it comes to fighting the novel coronavirus.
Ford said he was set to speak to Pfizer, one of the drugmakers that has entered into an agreement with Canada, on Monday afternoon but expected to be told the information must come from Ottawa.
The premier cited reports that other countries, such as the United Kingdom, are on track to start COVID-19 immunizations soon, adding Ontarians “need answers.”
Meanwhile, the American biotech company Moderna said Monday the first 20 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine will be shipped to the United States next month.
The chairman of the American vaccine maker told the CBC on Sunday that Canada is near the front of the line to receive the 20 million doses it pre-ordered, confirming that the country’s early commitment to purchasing the shots means it will get its supply first.
Moderna is one of several companies to have already submitted partial data to a “rolling review” process offered by Health Canada. Rather than presenting regulators with a complete package of trial results, the would-be vaccine makers file data and findings as they become available. Canada has been looking at Moderna’s first results since mid-October.
The issue of when Canada will receive its orders came to the forefront last week when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the country will have to wait a bit because the first doses off the production lines will be used in the countries where they are made.
Trudeau has repeatedly defended his government’s vaccine procurement policy, saying Ottawa has secured multiple options for the country.
The federal government was pressed on the matter further during Monday’s question period, as some MPs called for greater transparency regarding vaccine rollout, noting other countries such as Australia have made their plans public.
Health Minister Patty Hajdu said the government has been working with the provinces and territories to ensure the plan is robust.
“Canada is well-served by the diversity of vaccines we have purchased early and in fact in great quantity. Canadians can be assured they too will have access to these vaccines that will bring us to the end of COVID-19,” she said.
Case counts remained high in several provinces Monday.
Ontario, Alberta and Quebec, reported 1,746, 1,733 and 1,333 new infections respectively. Together, the three provinces had 39 new deaths related to the virus.
Toronto, one of two Ontario hot spots currently under lockdown, recorded a daily high of 643 new infections.
In Manitoba, health officials stressed residents must limit their contact with others in order to bring down the numbers, as the province reported 342 new cases and 11 additional deaths.
The provincial government imposed strict measures on business openings and public gatherings more than two weeks ago, but officials said the test positivity rate remains at 13 per cent.
Nunavut, however, will begin to lift the lockdown measures it enacted in mid-November on Wednesday, as more people recover from the illness.
Only Arviat, which has 86 active cases, will continue to be in lockdown for at least another two weeks, with travel restrictions in place, Nunavut officials said.
The territory reported four new cases Monday, bringing the total to 181.
In British Columbia, the province announced the highest number of deaths for a three-day period as it recorded 46 fatalities over the weekend.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry became emotional Monday as she expressed her condolences to families and thanked caregivers for their dedication.
“Health-care workers have been at the front lines, or maybe the last line of defence right now,” she says. “I know how challenging it is and I’m with you every single day, supporting you in admiration for the work that you’re doing.”
Out east, six new infections have been recorded in New Brunswick today, while Newfoundland and Labrador reported one.
Nova Scotia reported 16 new cases of COVID-19, bringing its total of active cases to 138.
On Sunday, the federal government announced it will extend a series of travel restrictions meant to limit the spread of COVID-19 into January, in light of the steady rise in case counts across the country.
Public Safety Minister Bill Blair and Hajdu said in a statement the measures, which were first enacted near the start of the global health crisis, would be in effect until Jan. 21, 2021, for travellers entering Canada from a country other than the United States.
Key COVID-19 numbers in the Ottawa area today – CBC.ca
- Ottawa is reporting 136 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday.
- Western Quebec has confirmed 43 new infections today.
Today’s Ottawa update
Ottawa Public Health (OPH) recorded 136 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday. OPH also declared 111 more cases resolved and reported no new deaths.
The current lockdown in eastern Ontario went into effect Dec. 26, and is now scheduled to last until Feb. 11.
A provincial stay-at-home order is also in effect.
Numbers to watch
88.9: The number of new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 Ottawa residents, down from Friday.
1.01: The average number of people infected by a single COVID-19 case, or R(t), has been in gradual decline this month but remains unchanged since Friday. OPH aims to keep the number below one.
4.1%: Ottawa’s average test positivity percentage, down from 4.5 per cent.
Across the region
Health authorities in western Quebec are reporting 43 new cases of COVID-19 but no more deaths.
Ontario reports 3056 new COVID-19 infections, 51 more deaths – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News
Ontario is reporting more than 3,000 new COVID-19 cases and a slight decrease in hospitalizations on Saturday.
The province logged 3,056 new infections and 51 additional deaths.
Twenty-five of the latest fatalities were among long-term care home residents, according to the Ministry of Health’s latest epidemiological summary.
To date, 3,162 long-term care residents have died from the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, representing 59 per cent of all virus-related deaths in the province. A total of 5,340 people have died from the virus in Ontario.
Provincial health officials said 3,212 more people have recovered from the virus on Saturday, bringing the number of active cases to 28,618.
Ontario recorded 2,998 new cases on Friday, 3,326 on Thursday and 2,961 on Wednesday.
A record 3,945 new cases were recorded on Jan. 10.
The seven-day rolling average now stands at 3,218, compared to 3,341 a week ago. Last week’s average does not include the approximately 450 additional cases that were reported by Toronto Public Health on Jan. 8 due to a data backlog.
In the past 24 hours, the province processed more than 73,800 tests, down from the record 76,472 tests conducted a day ago.
The testing positivity rate now stands at 4.9 per cent, up from 4.6 per cent a day ago, according to the Ministry of Health. The positivity rate was 5.3 per cent a week ago.
Most of the cases continue to be throughout the Greater Toronto Area.
“Locally, there are 903 new cases in Toronto, 639 in Peel, 283 in York Region, 162 in Durham and 152 in Ottawa,” Health Minister Christine Elliott tweeted.
Toronto, Peel Region and York Region saw a decrease in new cases compared to a day ago, while Durham and Ottawa saw an increase.
Halton Region logged 61 new infections, down 20 from Friday, and Hamilton reported 53 new cases, a notable decrease from 138 cases logged a day ago.
Only three of Ontario’s 34 public health units reported zero new cases on Saturday, and 16 logged 10 or less new infections.
Patients hospitalized with the virus decreased slightly on Saturday as the province’s health care system remains overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases.
According to the government, 1,632 were hospitalized with the virus in the past 24 hours, down from 1,647 a day ago. On Tuesday, 1,701 people were in hospitals across the province with the virus but hospitalizations have been decreasing slightly ever since.
Of the latest hospitalizations, 397 are in intensive care units, up from 387 on Friday, and 281 are breathing with the help of a ventilator.
There have been more than 234,300 cases of the novel coronavirus in the province since the virus emerged almost a year ago. More than 200,400 people have recovered from COVID-19.
More than 19,000 completed vaccinations
As of 8 p.m. on Saturday, the government has administered more than 189,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines across the province.
In the past 24 hours, more than 14,400 doses were administered to Ontarians.
Since Dec. 14, more than 19,300 vaccinations have been completed across the province, as two doses of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are required for full immunization.
No change to Canada's Pfizer vaccine shipments as company restores European supply – Calgary Herald
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Alberta Health said the ministry would not be able to provide an update on the topic before Monday.
On Friday, Health Minister Tyler Shandro said he was “disappointed” in the delay, saying it meant the current phase of vaccinations in Alberta, which includes priority groups of health-care workers, would take longer to complete.
The start of the following phase, allowing seniors over 75 and Indigenous seniors over 65 to get the jab, will be consequently pushed back.
As well, Shandro said the province will be forced to delay some second doses of vaccination due to the news.
Pfizer shipments to Canada are expected to continue, but will contain fewer doses. There is no change to scheduled shipments of the Moderna vaccine.
Through end-of-day Friday, 81,561 Albertans have received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, an increase of 7,451 from the previous day. Among all provinces, Alberta ranks second for immunizations per capita, behind only Prince Edward Island.
The province is slated to administer at least 16,000 more jabs over the weekend, after Alberta Health Services said all previously advertised appointments had been booked.
Also Saturday, Alberta reported it had detected another 717 cases of the novel coronavirus.
The new infections came from 12,439 tests, a 5.8 per cent positivity rate, consistent with rates over the previous two days and below the seven-day average positivity rate of 6.2 per cent.
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