Justin Trudeau Expects Canada to Have Vaccine in Early 2021

The news comes after the country recorded more than 4,000 cases for the first time and the number of people suffering from "severe illness" is increasing.
Anya Zoledziowski
Toronto, CA
November 9, 2020, 4:42pm
Prime Minister justin trudeau
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said a. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Canadians could access a COVID-19 vaccine within the first three months of 2021 if the newly announced Pfizer vaccine continues down its promising trajectory, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters on Monday.

“We see the light at the end of the tunnel," Trudeau said.

Pfizer announced Monday it’s made a breakthrough with a vaccine that’s more than 90 percent effective at preventing COVID-19, according to early data. 

Advertisement

The Canadian government has already ordered 20 million doses of the two-dose vaccine, which can be deployed in Canada as soon as Health Canada approves it, Trudeau said. The final round of safety data is expected from Pfizer later this month. 

Trudeau previously said it’ll likely take a while for easy distribution to take place after a vaccine is developed and secured.

“We know that some of the first vaccines to come out have extremely high degrees of logistical support necessary —things like freezers that can keep the vaccines down at -80 C for example, which doesn't lend itself to mass distribution in pharmacies across the country,” Trudeau told reporters on Friday.

Trudeau said the first people to get vaccines will be those belonging to populations more vulnerable to the disease, including front-line health workers and Indigenous peoples. 

According to CBC News, Canada has secured a total of 358 million COVID-19 vaccine doses from a number of developers, including 76 million from Quebec City-biotech company Medicago

The news comes as Canada continues to grapple with record highs of coronavirus cases, recording more than 4,000 cases for the first time this week.

According to Global News, Canada recorded 4,060 cases on Sunday and 32 deaths. The figures are likely higher as Sunday’s tally doesn’t include British Columbia or the territories.  

There have been at least nine days in Canada in the past two weeks where upwards of 3,000 new cases were recorded. 

So far Canada has recorded 264,113 cases and 10,522 deaths, according to Canada Public Health. The situation has escalated so much that regions that previously didn’t suffer outbreaks are now rushing to contain the virus. 

One in 700 Manitobans were diagnosed with COVID-19 in the first week of November. Even Nunavut, a northern territory in Canada, confirmed two cases after making it through the summer without a single case.

Advertisement

“The number of people experiencing severe illness continues to increase,” Canada’s top doctor, Theresa Tam, said in a statement on Saturday. “As hospitalizations and deaths tend to lag behind increased disease activity by one to several weeks, the concern is that we have yet to see the extent of severe impacts.”

About 2.5 percent of all tests have come back positive, according to Tam—but last week, the country had a 4.7 percent positivity rate. 

Despite alarming COVID-19 surges, the response to the country’s “second wave” varies from province to province. 

Quebec, Canada’s longstanding pandemic hotspot, shattered records over the weekend when it recorded 1,397 new cases and nine deaths on Sunday. The province accounts for more than 40 percent of Canada total COVID-19 count. In Montreal, restaurants, gyms, casinos, theatres, libraries, and museums are closed from the end of September until at least November 23. 

Ontario reported a record 1,328 new virus infections on Sunday, surpassing Saturday’s record-breaking 1,132 cases. 

The province has a tiered restriction system, which allows local officials to impose rules based on COVID-19 rates in their region. But even the most restrictive tier allows restaurants, gyms, and casinos to remain open. 

Doctors have strongly criticized Ontario’s tiered system, saying enough isn’t being done to contain the virus. Amir Attaran, a professor of law and public health at the University of Ottawa, told CTV News the threshold for requiring higher restrictions is “absurdly, dangerously high.”

Advertisement

“What the province is saying is that the situation in Ontario has to deteriorate beyond most of the United States, which as we know is a disaster, before they will implement (an adequate) degree of control,” Attaran said.

British Columbia, previously heralded for its swift pandemic response (17,716 cases so far), announced a record 589 cases on Friday, prompting Vancouver to reinstate some lockdown restrictions. People in affected regions can only interact with other members of their households, while those living alone can bubble with up to two others. All indoor exercise classes have also been banned and the province’s top doctor asked people in and out of the affected region to avoid nonessential travel. 

Meanwhile, Alberta has reported some of the most concerning numbers in the country, with doctors telling PostMedia the situation there is “a spiral out of control.” Alberta had never recorded more than 600 cases in a single day—until Saturday, when it recorded 919 new infections. The high number rivalled Ontario’s daily count, despite Alberta having one-third of Ontario’s population.

Cases in Alberta are growing so rapidly that the province can’t maintain adequate contact tracing.

But Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said he would not implement a lockdown, and instead announced on Friday a 15-person cap on social gatherings.

“I see myself and I see my colleagues becoming demoralized and frustrated by the lack of leadership that this government showed,” Calgary physician Dr. Raj Bhardwaj told PostMedia.

Pfizer announced Monday it’s made a breakthrough with a vaccine that’s more than 90 percent effective at preventing COVID-19, according to early data. Despite the good news, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it’ll likely take a while for easy distribution to take place after a vaccine is developed and secured.

“We know that some of the first vaccines to come out have extremely high degrees of logistical support necessary —things like freezers that can keep the vaccines down at -80 C for example, which doesn't lend itself to mass distribution in pharmacies across the country,” Trudeau told reporters on Friday.

Trudeau said the first people to get vaccines will be those belonging to populations more vulnerable to the disease, including front-line health workers and Indigenous peoples. 

In the meantime, there are measures Canadians can take to keep each other safe, including washing hands frequently, maintaining physical distancing, and wearing face masks. New guidelines for the country announced last week say people should wear non-medical face masks that have three layers. 

Follow Anya Zoledziowski on Twitter.