|Despite promising COVID-19 vaccine candidates on the horizon worldwide, experts say Canada needs to overcome major hurdles before it can develop rollout strategies to get the right shot into Canadians’ arms. Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the country needs “a very sophisticated” rollout plan that will require “high degrees of logistical support.” But determining which Canadians should get a vaccine first is extremely challenging without more details, write CBC’s Adam Miller and Amina Zafar.
“The rollout is going to be the most difficult part of this vaccine and that’s the part I think everyone is starting to think of today,” said Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious diseases specialist at St. Joseph’s Healthcare in Hamilton. “If the vaccine data shows that the highest risk populations also have the highest reasonable benefit here, I think that prioritization scheme works very well and hopefully that’s the target for the first 10 million doses.”
Canada might need to develop several contingency plans. “If we decide to start with health-care workers, it’s going to be a completely different strategy than if we start by vaccinating the elderly in long-term care facilities,” said Dr. Caroline Quach, a pediatric infectious disease specialist and chair of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI). “So it’s difficult currently for provinces and territories to have a good idea and a good understanding of how they need to deploy.”
The federal government has reportedly secured enough syringes and needles for provinces and territories to vaccinate all Canadians who wish to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, but Quach says the specific plans are still unclear. The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) said in a statement to CBC News the federal government is working with provinces and territories to approve and distribute a vaccine as quickly as possible. “It is anticipated that in the early stages of rollout, supply availability will be limited,” a spokesperson said.
The NACI has released preliminary recommendations that prioritize the elderly and others at severe risk of illness: health-care workers, front-line staff and those with lower access to health care, including Indigenous populations. The NACI and government officials need to know who fell ill in the vaccinated group compared with the placebo group during clinical trials. Without answers, governments across Canada will need to hedge their bets in deciding priorities for vaccination. “They may have to work on two to three plans in parallel,” Quach said. “Just in case one of those will be picked as the first strategy.”