‘Everything is looking good’ for COVID-19 vaccine, but steps remain: uOttawa infectious disease specialist

OTTAWA — A University of Ottawa infectious disease specialist suggests the prime minister’s goal to vaccinate a majority of Canadians by next September “may be reasonable” given there are several COVID-19 vaccine candidates.

Dr. Earl Brown says that while everything is looking good for a COVID-19 vaccine, Health Canada has not approved a vaccine for use in Canada yet.

As the premiers urge the federal government to provide timelines on when a COVID-19 vaccine will be available to the provinces, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his target is to immunize more than half of all Canadians by September, 2021.

“That may be optimistic, but that may be reasonable given that we’ve got three vaccine candidates,” said Dr. Earl Brown, a former member of the H1N1 vaccine task group in Canada.

“The fact is there is no vaccine; a vaccine is a medicine, which is licenced for use in Canada on humans and it would have a drug number.  Nothing like that exists. Now, maybe it will in a week, two weeks, a month, a few weeks.”

During an interview on CTV News at Six with anchor Stefan Keyes, Dr. Brown said there are three very “promising” vaccine candidates, based on the press releases and published phase one and two trials.

“Everything is looking good, but you really have to know that you’ve got a vaccine that’s passed muster, and we don’t know that yet. So we can’t count our chickens before they hatch,” said Dr. Brown, noting officials are demanding timelines for delivery before the vaccine receives approval.

“You really want to know you’ve got something before you go committing yourself. Those are the realities of being careful before you move, and we’re doing the minimum care – which is it has to be passing Health Canada review and get approved.”

Health Canada says Canada’s first COVID-19 vaccine could be approved before Christmas. Chief Medical Adviser Dr. Supriya Sharma said the review of the Pfizer vaccine candidate is the most advanced.

This week, the federal government suggested three million Canadians could receive the COVID-19 vaccine by the end of March.

“If we can vaccinate three million health care workers, long-term care facility residents alone between now and the end of March, that’s a tremendous feat,” said Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Abdu Sharkawy, during an interview with CTV News Ottawa.

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches told Newstalk 580 CFRA this week that the top priority for the COVID-19 vaccine in Ottawa when it arrives is preventing hospitalizations and deaths, especially in long-term care homes.

VACCINE PRODUCTION CAPACITY IN CANADA

Prime Minister Trudeau told reporters that Canada no longer has production capacity to produce life-saving vaccines.

Appearing on CTV’s Your Morning this week, Dr. Brown said Canadian administrations simply took their “eye off the ball” for vaccine production.

Keyes asked Brown if it’s too late for Canada to get back in the game for a COVID-19 vaccine.

“Well it’s too late on the short term for this pandemic, but we got to get back in to the game. We have to have a readiness to respond to a pandemic with a vaccine,” said Brown Saturday evening

“So our vaccine facilities have essentially dwindled in Canada and so we aren’t able to make a set of vaccine. We should be able to make enough vaccine to give everybody two shots –76 million doses thereabouts. So we should plan to be able to do that within a year with some standing facility.”

Brown adds it’s very tough to do anything financially with a vaccine facility.

“It’s very hard to sell a vaccine or make money on vaccines if that’s what you want to do in the meantime between pandemics.”

Brown says Canada will need to come up with a plan for the future.

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