OTTAWA – Canada’s global spring rush to buy personal protective equipment for frontline healthcare workers taught the federal Liberal government a painful lesson – that it must take a leap forward in vaccine procurement , said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
In his first specific acknowledgment of his government’s mistakes during the pandemic, Trudeau told an interviewer he wanted his government to act sooner to procure PPE – masks, face shields, gowns and gloves – in January.
Looking back, he wished that when Dr. Theresa Tam “started telling us about the potential for the disturbing news to come in January from China, we would immediately turn around and start buying a lot of PPE” Trudeau told CITY -LA TÉLÉ.
“At the start of the pandemic in March and April, where they were really concerned about frontline health workers reusing the masks and having to take them home and wash them, this was something I wish I could make. to avoid. “
Canada has since acquired over 2 billion PPE “so it’s fine now, but in those first few months I think we need to be more prepared and we’re going to make sure that in the future Canada doesn’t will never be taken without equipment. to protect our front-line workers again, ”he said.
“There is a lot we learned, but one of the things we learned from the PPE rush was to be early on the vaccines.
Vaccination in many provinces is already underway after Health Canada gave its first approval to a COVID-19 vaccine made by Pfizer / BioNTech.
Deputy director of public health Dr Howard Njoo said on Wednesday that regulators are expected to make a decision on a second vaccine, produced by Massachusetts-based Moderna, “in the near future.”
The Moderna vaccine is eagerly awaited because it does not have the same cold storage requirements as Pfizer’s, which must be used within six hours after thawed and mixed. Moderna vaccine can be stored at -20 ° C and is stable after thawed for approximately 30 days at normal refrigerator temperatures.
Canada has purchased 40 million doses of Moderna and expects delivery of up to 168,000 doses by the end of December, subject to Health Canada approval. Deliveries could begin within 48 hours of regulatory clearance.
This vaccine is sought after by provinces and territories for many hard-to-reach communities.
Most provinces have started administering the Pfizer vaccine in two stages, primarily to long-term care residents, staff and other frontline health workers.
Yet even as vaccinations begin in many urban areas, a huge rush is underway to prepare northern and remote Indigenous communities to be ready to receive the vaccines that have been allocated to provincial and territorial governments on a per capita basis.
There is no special allowance, top-up or designated shipment for indigenous communities, and it is up to the provinces to distribute them.
Ontario Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said the province’s Ornge air ambulance service will help “ensure that remote and northern communities receive the vaccine as quickly as possible” once people transportable supplies arrive.
Major-General Dany Fortin, the military commander who oversees the deployment of the Public Health Agency of Canada’s vaccines, said
“Dry trials” to test the ability of provinces and territories to deliver Moderna vaccine to remote, rural and northern communities are underway.
The territories have chosen not to receive Pfizer vaccines due to lack of ultra-cold storage capacity and product handling difficulties, and have requested their per capita share of Moderna vaccines.
Dr. Evan Adams, deputy chief medical officer of Indigenous Services Canada, said there have been nearly 6,400 cases of COVID-19 in First Nations communities, with the disease reaching 50% on reserves and 55 deaths in communities. reservations.
Adams said there were an “alarming” number of cases among Aboriginal people in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
He urged all governments to “hear” the concerns of indigenous leaders on how best to implement a vaccination program in their communities.
Adams and Dr Tom Wong, the federal chief medical officer in charge, said Indigenous leaders want to ensure their health workers and elders are protected, as recommended by federal guidelines.
But there are other complicating factors. Life expectancy is approximately 15 years shorter for Aboriginal peoples than for the general Canadian population. There are also greater disparities affecting health – things like unemployment, access to clean water, food insecurity – and a higher incidence of underlying diseases like diabetes than in communities without. indigenous.
“Indigenous partners are advocating to start at a younger age compared to the general Canadian population,” said Wong. “And if you look at the First Nations data released by Manitoba First Nations, you can actually see that the median age of fatal cases (COVID-19), they are 15 to 20 years younger than the general population. of Manitoba. . ”