A COVID-19 vaccine ‘will come,’ but Ottawa residents need to continue to wear a mask and physical distance: Dr. Etches

OTTAWA — Ottawa’s medical officer of health says while we know a COVID-19 vaccine “will come”, Ottawa residents need to continue practicing physical distancing and wearing a mask to stop the spread of the virus.

“This is going to keep us as safe as possible until then,” said Dr. Vera Etches in an interview with CTV News at Six, adding Ottawa Public Health and the city are preparing for many scenarios to rollout the COVID-19 vaccine.

Ottawa Public Health reported 48 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, while Ontario set a new record with 1,859 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19.

On Wednesday, Britain became the first country in the West to authorize the use of a COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech.

CTV News at Six anchor Christina Succi asked Dr. Etches what she would say to Ottawa residents disheartened to see Britain start vaccinating residents, while a COVID-19 vaccine is not approved for use in Canada.

“It is difficult because we know that the current measures of isolation are very hard for people and businesses are suffering. We know its coming, it will come and what we’re doing right now to keep distance between each other, to wear masks – this is going to keep us as safe as possible until then,” said Dr. Etches.

On Saturday, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said there is still a “long road ahead” in the battle against COVID-19.

“An initial supply of vaccines is expected to become available in early 2021 and although supply will be limited at the outset, Canada is well-positioned to provide access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines for all Canadians,” said Tam in a statement.

The federal government will conduct a “dry run” for the COVID-19 vaccine rollout on Monday.

In Ottawa, Dr. Etches says Ottawa Public Health is working with the Ottawa Hospital and the city’s COVID-19 vaccine taskforce to prepare for the arrival of the vaccine.

“We know that everyone’s working hard to make sure that as soon as they’re available and approved, that we can deliver them. So we know there’s approval coming shortly from Health Canada, or their assessment anyway, they will make their assessment available online I gather,” said Dr. Etches.

“We know that the cold storage that might be needed for one of the vaccines, that’s all being arranged so it can be in place. It really is a big collaboration with our hospitals, our city, our long-term cares – planning under may scenarios so that we can be ready to go when needed.”

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization identified four groups who should be considered for early immunizations:

  • Residents and staff of long-term care, retirement homes, chronic care hospitals
  • Individuals of advanced age, starting with 80 years and older
  • Health care and personal support workers
  • Indigenous communities

“We see around the world the same kinds of recommendations coming out to prevent hospitalizations and deaths, and it really means focusing on residents and health care workers in long-term care settings where we’ve seen the worst outcomes,” said Dr. Etches.

“Of course, health care workers that are on the front lines also very important to reach and anyone really over age 80. There are also remote communities, First Nations, Inuit, Metis communities that so far the early guidance points to making sure these populations are more protected.”

With files from CTV News Ottawa New Bureau Online Producer Rachel Aiello and The Associated Press

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