Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer says that when a COVID-19 vaccine is approved there will be a limited supply at first.
At a press conference on Friday, Dr. Theresa Tam said that she is “cautiously optimistic” that a safe and effective vaccine for the coronavirus will be available in the first quarter of 2021. However, initial supplies of the vaccine will be in short order.
“I would like to emphasize that when vaccines become available there will be a limited supply at first,” Tam told reporters.
“While that supply will increase over time, it does mean that federal, provincial, and territorial governments will have to make important decisions on how to use the initial vaccine supply.”
Earlier this week, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) provided preliminary guidance on the key populations that should be considered for early immunization, including those at high risk of severe illness and death from the virus, and workers who are essential to maintaining virus response.
Tam stressed that clinical trials still need to continue and that Health Canada still needs to approve any vaccines that are deemed safe and effective. Once vaccines are approved, the government will receive additional advice on prioritization from the NACI based on the characteristics of each vaccine.
“There is still a long road ahead,” Tam said. “In the meantime, it is crucial that we continue to layer on individual protections that we know to be effective in keeping infection rates low.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said obtaining vaccines for Canadians is a top priority for his government.
Decisions on which vaccines to pursue, which populations get first access, and the manner in which they are distributed across the country will be based on the recommendations of experts, Trudeau said, adding that the provinces will also be part of the conversation.
The prime minister said that some of the first vaccines available will require a high degree of logistical support, such as needing to be kept below -80°C, which will make them difficult to distribute to pharmacies en masse. However, that will be possible with later vaccines.
“The federal government has moved forward on procuring access to a large suite of different potential vaccines from around the world – different types of vaccines, different origins of vaccines – because we know that making sure we’re maximizing the chances of having the right vaccine for Canadians is what Canadians expect.”
“We have one of the best potential vaccine portfolios of any of our peer countries right now.”
To date, Canada has seen 251,338 coronavirus cases and 10,381 deaths. Tam said the average case count across the country was 3,350 per day over the past week.