In My Opinion: All levels of government must work together as COVID-19 vaccine roll out begins

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith is the Liberal MP for Beaches-East York.

By NATHANIEL ERSKINE-SMITH

A successful vaccine roll-out is critical to putting an end to the COVID-19 pandemic. To succeed, we need all levels of government to work together on a rapid delivery, and we need to educate our family, friends, and neighbours about the safety and importance of protecting each other through vaccines.

Our federal government is responsible for vaccine approvals and procurement and we are partnering with the provinces and territories on the distribution plan, which is ultimately their responsibility.

Recently, Health Canada approved the first vaccine, and three other submissions are under active review.

Vaccines are only approved after a thorough, independent and scientific process, and the approved Pfizer vaccine was subjected to a clinical trial of 44,000 adults.

Everyone needs to know that the benefits of a vaccine are huge, and the risks are very small. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, the risk of a serious adverse reaction is less than one in a million. But to support everyone and to give every Canadian comfort, we are establishing a no-fault vaccine injury support program.

On procurement, we have also worked hard to establish agreements with seven companies to secure a guaranteed supply of 190 million vaccine doses, with options for over 200 million more.

We expect six million doses to be delivered by the first quarter of 2021, with 249,000 Pfizer doses arriving before the end of the year.

On the roll-out, we are fortunate to have a strong and existing vaccine distribution system, but we are also helping provinces and territories to address logistical challenges in a number of ways.

To this end, we are deploying the Canadian Armed Forces to assist – they are alreadyrunning “dry run” tests – and have assigned former NATO commander and Major General Dany Fortin to oversee logistical planning.

We are also procuring additional logistics services, and have already procured other equipment for the coming deployment, including needles, syringes, alcohol swabs, cold storage, and dry ice packs.

The first phase of the roll-out will be reserved for high risk groups and, based on expert recommendations, Ontario will prioritize residents, staff, essential caregivers, and other employees that provide care for seniors, health care workers (including hospital employees), adults in Indigenous communities where infections can have disproportionate consequences, and adult recipients of chronic home health care. The very first doses will be administered in Toronto and Ottawa this week to health care workers who are providing care in nursing homes and other high-risk settings.

Children are not yet included in roll-out plans because the early clinical trials focused on adults.This will change as Health Canada receives more information.

Recognizing the global challenge of COVID-19, we have also contributed a significant amount towards the ACT-Accelerator, aimed at global and equitable access to tests, treatments and vaccines.

We are the fifth overall contributor to the ACT-Accelerator and the second largest contributor to COVAX, its vaccine pillar.

The Prime Minister has said that he expects most Canadians to be vaccinated by September. We are not yet through this crisis, but we can see the end of it now.

As we head into the holidays and a difficult winter, I hope this news is welcome and that knowing an end is in sight will help us all to manage through the months ahead.

If you have any questions, or if I can help in any way, please email me at info@beynate.ca.

I can’t wait for us all to be vaccinated, and to be out in our community and together in person again.

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith is the MP for Beaches-East York.


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