'Majority' of Canadians should be vaccinated against coronavirus by September: Trudeau

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday that they are working “extremely hard” to deliver COVID-19 vaccines “as quickly and as safely as possible,” adding that doctors have highlighted “if all goes according to plan,” the majority of Canadians could be vaccinated by next September.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says a majority of Canadians should be vaccinated against the coronavirus by next September.

He cited Canada’s top doctors as he detailed the news from outside his home on Friday.

“The fact that the doctors highlighted that if all goes according to plan, we should be able to have a majority of Canadians vaccinated by next September, puts us in very good stead,” Trudeau said, speaking from the front steps of Rideau Cottage.

“We’re working extremely hard to deliver as quickly and as safely as possible.”

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One of Canada’s top doctors said shortly afterwards that a September timeline is “optimistic” – though he added that he shares that optimism with the prime minister.

“I’m always in agreement with our prime minister,” deputy chief public health officer Dr. Howard Njoo said with a smile as he spoke in French to reporters on Friday.

“It’s very difficult to talk about precise numbers. I think that the prime minister is optimistic; I am, too. There are a lot of unknowns.”

Njoo explained that as things stand now, there is no vaccine that has been approved for use in Canada. Even if the two most likely vaccine candidates receive regulatory approval in the coming weeks, there are still five other vaccine candidates that Canada has signed advance purchase agreements with, leaving a lot of balls still up in the air.

“With the approval, perhaps, of these two vaccines, Pfizer and Moderna, perhaps we’re looking at delivery of some six million doses in January and February,” said Njoo.

“Beyond that, it’s difficult to say because if we’re talking about September or December, that’s several months away.”

Njoo added that what Trudeau said in terms of a timeline Friday morning is “good” because it’s a “target.”

“If the prime minister set September out there as an objective, that’s fine because we’re continuing to work hard to be able to offer vaccination to the majority of Canadians. So if it’s September or December, for me, it’s just a matter of months,” Njoo said.

Trudeau also provided details of how the roll-out plan for those vaccines is starting to take shape. He shared that he has tapped the former head of the NATO mission in Iraq, Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, to lead the federal government’s COVID-19 distribution of a vaccine.

Fortin will head up the logistics and operations within the national operations centre the government is establishing to receive and distribute vaccines.

“Canada is well prepared for large-scale roll-outs of vaccines, but this will be the biggest immunization in the history of the country. We must reach everyone who wants a vaccine, no matter where they live,” Trudeau said.

He said specific challenges within this include ensuring the vaccine can reach Indigenous and rural communities, as well as the ultra-cold storage requirements of some of the vaccine candidates.

“For our part, the federal government has already purchased freezers to work for specific vaccine candidates,” Trudeau said.

He said that in a meeting with Canada’s premiers on Thursday, the provincial and territorial leaders highlighted concerns about ensuring everyone – including vulnerable Canadians – is able to access the vaccine.

“When a vaccine is ready, Canada will be ready. We’re in this together,” Trudeau said.

“And the more we work as a team, the better we’ll do.”

This comes on the heels of the news that Canada could see regulatory approval for a promising vaccine candidate as early as next month.

“Vaccines are on the horizon. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” said Trudeau.

The chief medical adviser at Health Canada, Dr. Supriya Sharma, said Thursday that Canada has “similar timelines” to the U.S. and Europe for approval of the vaccine being developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, and that Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate could be approved in Canada next month.

In the meantime, Trudeau said the government has been working “extremely hard” to ensure a vaccine can be distributed “as quickly and as safely as possible.”

“We have continued to work with the provinces on vaccine delivery and logistics since last spring. We’ve been engaged understanding that a vaccine was going to be the way we were going to get through this pandemic,” Trudeau said.

“That’s why, from the beginning, we signed one of the most diverse range of contracts of any country in the world for more doses per capita than any other country around the world. We are ensuring that Canadians will be protected.”

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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