A person walks past a COVID-19 assessment centre during the COVID-19 pandemic in Scarborough, Ont., on Wednesday, December 2, 2020. Toronto and Peel region continue to be in lockdown. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

A person walks past a COVID-19 assessment centre during the COVID-19 pandemic in Scarborough, Ont., on Wednesday, December 2, 2020. Toronto and Peel region continue to be in lockdown. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Health Canada to make decision on Pfizer vaccine approval soon, feds say

Singh called for the creation of a new Crown corporation to restore the capacity to produce vaccines

Canada is drawing closer to making a decision on a leading COVID-19 vaccine candidate, Health Minister Patty Hajdu said Wednesday as the federal government continued to face pressure to deliver on doses amid mounting cases and deaths.

In a series of Twitter messages, Hajdu described the United Kingdom’s decision to authorize the vaccine made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech as “encouraging.”

“Health Canada’s review of this candidate is ongoing, and is expected to be completed soon,” she wrote.

“Making sure a COVID-19 vaccine is safe before approving it is Health Canada’s priority, and when a vaccine is ready, Canada will be ready.”

The Liberal government has been facing criticism on vaccines since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau admitted last week that other countries with domestic vaccine production are likely to inoculate their citizens first before shipping doses to Canada.

On Wednesday, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said it was “completely wrong” that Canada no longer has the capacity to manufacture vaccines — something he blamed on both the Liberals and the previous Conservative governments.

Singh called for the creation of a new Crown corporation to restore the capacity to produce vaccines and other critical medications.

“We should be able to do it at home,” he said.

Trudeau also came under fire from the Conservatives, who questioned why Canada is seemingly behind the United Kingdom in the vaccine process.

“Right now, as we speak, Health Canada is looking at four different vaccine candidates — candidates that are leading around the world and that we have signed for tens of millions of doses for,” Trudeau said in response to a question from Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner.

READ MORE: UK becomes first to authorize Pfizer coronavirus vaccine for emergency use

Health Canada’s chief medical adviser said last week that several vaccine candidates are under review, and the first could be approved sometime this month.

Dr. Supriya Sharma said at a briefing on Nov. 26 that the agency expected to make a decision on approval at around the same time as regulators in the United States and Europe.

On Wednesday, Health Canada reiterated in a statement that it was working with international regulators, including those in the United Kingdom, but would make its own decision.

“A vaccine would only be authorized in Canada following the completion of an independent review process assessing its safety, efficacy and quality,” Health Canada said.

Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, described the vaccine effort as “one of the most consequential scientific endeavours in living memory” and “one of the most complex operations ever taken in public health.”

Speaking at a vaccine conference, she said the country is working to further refine the list of who gets the vaccine first, since the initial six million doses expected to come in early 2021 — enough for three million people — aren’t enough for everyone on the national vaccine advisory committee’s list of priority groups, which include the ill and elderly, health-care workers, essential workers and Indigenous communities.

The race towards a vaccine is taking place against a backdrop of rising infections and deaths in many parts of the country.

Alberta continued to have the highest per-capita COVID-19 rate in the country and added 1,685 new infections Wednesday.

Premier Jason Kenney announced a team is planning a three-phase rollout of the vaccine, with first shipments expected to arrive on Jan. 4 from 30 depots in the province.

“This is evidence that there is light at the end of the tunnel, and we can see this critical juncture when we will get past the terrible damage that COVID-19 has caused for our society,” he said.

British Columbia’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, said there is some variability in how the illness is spreading in different areas of the province, but social interactions are driving transmission.

Another 12 people have died in B.C. after contracting the novel coronavirus, while the province reported 834 new cases on Wednesday.

Henry said people should avoid non-essential travel as she mentioned how members of an adult hockey team from the Interior spread COVID-19 in their community after they returned from Alberta.

“Making an exception for yourself or for your team or for your recreational needs puts a crack in our wall, and we see that this virus can exploit that very easily at this time of year,” she said.

Quebec hit a new single-day high of 1,514 infections Wednesday, as well as 43 new deaths linked to the novel coronavirus.

The province’s deputy premier, Genevieve Guilbault, announced strict new limits for the number of shoppers inside shopping malls and big-box stores to come into effect later this week, with a maximum capacity to be determined based on each store’s surface area.

Cases and deaths were also high in Ontario, which reported 1,723 new infections and 35 lives lost to the virus.

The province also reported reported 656 people in hospital due to COVID-19, and 183 in intensive care, prompting the Ontario Hospital Association to warn that institutions were finding it increasingly difficult to keep up with other surgeries and procedures.

Hospital capacity is also a concern in in Manitoba, which reported 277 new cases and 14 deaths.

Chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said that while cases had dropped somewhat, the health-care system remained under strain, with almost half of the 106 intensive care beds in the province being used by people with COVID-19.

The province also announced that students in grades 7 to 12 would have to learn remotely for two weeks after the holiday break to curb the spread of COVID-19, with exceptions being made for those with special needs.

Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirusvaccines

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Cheryl Dill visits the PQB News/VI Free Daily studio. (Peter McCully photo)
PQBeat: Talking jobs, tourism and business with Cheryl Dill in Parksville

Podcast: COVID-19 has far-reaching impacts on Vancouver Island

(File photo)
PQB crime report: Vandals strike in Parksville, prowler lurks in Nanoose Bay

Oceanside RCMP receive 276 complaints in one-week period

In this image from NASA, NASA’s experimental Mars helicopter Ingenuity lands on the surface of Mars Monday, April 19, 2021. The little 4-pound helicopter rose from the dusty red surface into the thin Martian air Monday, achieving the first powered, controlled flight on another planet. (NASA via AP)
VIDEO: NASA’s Mars helicopter takes flight, 1st for another planet

The $85 million helicopter demo was considered high risk, yet high reward

Orca 1
Orcas: Our Shared Future finally surfaces at Royal B.C. Museum

Museum dives into the world of the killer whale as delayed feature exhibition now open

New figures show Canadian housing prices outpacing those in other developed countries. (Black Press Media file photo)
Canadian housing prices fastest rising in the world

Relative to 2000, housing prices have risen by a factor of more than 2.5

Polystyrene has been outlawed as a take-out option for restaurants in Tofino and Ucluelet. (Black Press Media file photo)
Styrofoam done as a takeout option on Island’s Pacific Rim

Tofino and Ucluelet ban polystyrene take-out containers

The IIO is investigating after a police dog bit a man during a traffic stop near Ladysmith on April 17, 2021. (Black Press Media stock photo)
IIO investigating after police dog bites man near Ladysmith

RCMP dog bit man during traffic stop on Friday, April 17

This photo shows crews battling the fire at 7987 Galbraith Cres. that caused extensive damage and displaced six residents early Sunday morning. (Central Saanich Fire/Department Twitter)
Six fortunate to escape terrifying early-morning fire in Greater Victoria

Damage to the duplex extensive with one resident said to be ‘catatonic’ after escaping building

Joudelie King wants to get out and live life to the fullest, but there are places she can’t go because they don’t meet her accessibility needs. (submitted photo)
New online tool provides accessibility map for people with disabilities

The myCommunity BC map provides accessibility info for nearly 1,000 locations in the province

British Columbia’s provincial flag flies in Ottawa, Friday July 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Wildfire fanned by winds near Merritt prompts evacuation alert

BC Wildfire Service says the suspected human-caused blaze was fanned by winds

Most Read