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

The Art Infiniti Hotel caught fire on New Year’s Eve (Dec. 31, 2020) in Maple Ridge. Seven people were evacuated safely. (Barry Brinkman/Special to The News)
LETTER: Headline about Maple Ridge fire victim insensitive

Senior lost everything in Dec. 31 fire and letter writer felt denture reference inappropriate

Maple Ridge released its winter program guide recently. (Special to The News)
City unveils numerous winter programs and activities

Maple Ridge unveils guide that takes into consideration COVID-19

Corina Ardelean, right, and a volunteer wait for clients at Christian Life Assembly in Maple Ridge. (Special to The News)
Romanian refugees fulfill mission in Maple Ridge

Helping struggling families put food on the table

Maple Ridge’s Bruce Coughlan. (Special to The News)
Robbie Burns day to be feted virtually by Maple Ridge musician

Bruce Coughlan will hold virtual concert in Campbell River theatre in honour of Scottish bard

Naturally Splendid employees working at a flow wrapper station at its facility in Pitt Meadows (Special to The News)
Plant-based Pitt Meadows business pivots during pandemic

Naturally Splendid partners with Australian company on bringing meat substitute to Canada

A scene from “Canada and the Gulf War: In their own words,” a video by The Memory Project, a program of Historica Canada, is shown in this undated illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Historica Canada
New video marks Canada’s contributions to first Gulf War on 30th anniversary

Veterans Affairs Canada says around 4,500 Canadian military personnel served during the war

Williams Lake physician Dr. Ivan Scrooby and medical graduate student Vionarica Gusti hold up the COSMIC Bubble Helmet. Both are part of the non-profit organization COSMIC Medical which has come together to develop devices for treating patients with COVID-19. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Group of B.C. doctors, engineers developing ‘bubble helmet’ for COVID-19 patients

The helmet could support several patients at once, says the group

A 17-year-old snowmobiler used his backcountry survival sense in preparation to spend the night on the mountain near 100 Mile House Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021 after getting lost. (South Cariboo Search and Rescue Facebook photo)
Teen praised for backcountry survival skills after getting lost in B.C.’s Cariboo mountains

“This young man did everything right after things went wrong.”

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on December 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
No place for ‘far right’ in Conservative Party, Erin O’Toole says

O’Toole condemned the Capitol attack as ‘horrifying’ and sought to distance himself and the Tories from Trumpism

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A passer by walks in High Park, in Toronto, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. This workweek will kick off with what’s fabled to be the most depressing day of the year, during one of the darkest eras in recent history. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
‘Blue Monday’ getting you down? Exercise may be the cure, say experts

Many jurisdictions are tightening restrictions to curb soaring COVID-19 case counts

Pindie Dhaliwal, one of the organizers for the Surrey Challo protest for Indian farmers. She says organizers were told by Surrey RCMP that the event was not allowed due to COVID-19. Organizers ended up moving the protest to Strawberry Hill at the last minute. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
Indian farmers rally moves as organizers say Surrey RCMP told them they couldn’t gather

Protest originally planned in Cloverdale, moved to Strawberry Hill

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19: Provinces work on revised plans as Pfizer-BioNTech shipments to slow down

Anita Anand said she understands and shares Canadians’ concerns about the drug company’s decision

Tourists take photographs outside the British Columbia Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday August 26, 2011. A coalition of British Columbia tourism industry groups is urging the provincial government to not pursue plans to ban domestic travel to fight the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. travel ban will harm struggling tourism sector, says industry coalition

B.C. government would have to show evidence a travel ban is necessary

Most Read