Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer doctor Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer doctor Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Canada’s chief of public health hopeful as Health Canada approves 4th vaccine

‘We can be really increasingly optimistic in our outlook and that is really great, says Dr. Theresa Tam

The approval of a fourth COVID-19 vaccine and news of accelerated deliveries for another had government officials taking an optimistic tone Friday about the path of the pandemic in Canada.

“We can be really increasingly optimistic in our outlook and that is really great,” said Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, at a news conference in Ottawa.

Her excitement grew out of news that Health Canada has now authorized the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for use here. It joins vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Oxford-AstraZeneca among the offerings now available to Canadians.

It is the first and only vaccine Canada is buying that is a single dose, and is deemed safe and effective for all adults.

“Assessing all the data, we concluded that there was strong evidence that showed that the benefits of this vaccine outweigh the potential risks,” said Dr. Supriya Sharma, chief medical adviser at Health Canada.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also said Pfizer will ship 1.5 million more doses of its vaccine to Canada this month, and two million more in the spring. That means instead of getting 12.5 million doses from Pfizer between now and the end of June, Canada will get 15.5 million doses.

Procurement Minister Anita Anand said in total Canada now has confirmed deliveries of 36.5 million doses of vaccines by Canada Day, which would be more than enough to get a single dose to each adult Canadian by then.

That doesn’t include any of the 10 million doses purchased from Johnson & Johnson, and includes none of the 20 million doses coming directly from AstraZeneca. Anand says some of those are to be delivered in the spring, and all of them by the end of September, but specific delivery dates aren’t yet firm.

After being burned by production and delivery delays last month that saw Canada’s vaccine rollout performance pale in comparison to most of its allies, the Liberals are reluctant to adjust their formal timeline of getting every Canadian the chance to be inoculated by the end of September.

“What we are hearing today is important news, but we need to ensure that those delivery schedules are firm before we can discuss changing that timeline,” said Anand.

Still Tam said with most Canadians now likely to be vaccinated earlier than expected, at least with first doses, this winter should be the end of the worst the pandemic will offer.

“I think my optimism is that this following fall is going to look quite different to the preceding one,” said Tam.

While every vaccine except Johnson & Johnson’s is given in two doses, every province is moving to implement new guidance from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization that those doses should be spaced out up to four months, rather than three or four weeks.

That is being done to get more people vaccinated with a first dose, after real-world evidence showed strong data that one dose is highly effective on its own.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine uses a modified common-cold virus to carry a piece of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 to convince the body to mount an immune response to prevent future COVID-19 infections.

Clinical trials found it to be 66 per cent effective against moderate illness from COVID-19, 85 per cent effective against severe illness, and 100 per cent effective against death.

Sharma stressed that all vaccines authorized in Canada will protect Canadians from severe illness and death, and won’t be effective at all if Canadians don’t get them.

“Our advice to Canadians is to get whichever vaccine is available to you,” she said. “It’s that simple. The longer you wait to get vaccinated, the longer the time goes by that you are not protected.”

Dr. Ebele Ola, vice-president of medical affairs for Johnson & Johnson’s pharmaceutical arm, Janssen, said data showed the vaccine to be effective against the viral variants of concern that appear to be more contagious.

Ola said the vaccine was tested in the United States, South America and South Africa, and it was extremely effective at preventing severe illness in places the variants were common.

She echoed Sharma’s call for Canadians not to hold out for a specific vaccine, but rather to marvel in the “remarkable” achievement of so many effective vaccines being available.

“The best vaccine is the one that is offered,” said Ola.

Nearly 1.7 million Canadians have now been vaccinated with at least one dose, and the pace of vaccinations has quickened in the last two weeks. In the last seven days, more than 457,000 people were vaccinated, 2 1/2 times as many as in a similar period two weeks before.

While all Canadian adults can now expect their turns to get vaccines will come in the next few months, children are going to wait a lot longer.

Sharma said clinical trials are underway to see if any or all of the approved vaccines are safe and effective for children. Data for teenagers is going to come first, followed by that for children under 12.

“Potentially, by the end of the calendar year, we might have some answers for children,” she said.

There remains only one more vaccine currently under review by Health Canada, called Novavax, but it is still completing its clinical trials, and doesn’t expect data any earlier than late March.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Rainbow trouts thrashing with life as they’re about to be transferred to the largest lake of their lives, even though it’s pretty small. These rainbows have a blue tinge because they matched the blue of their hatchery pen, but soon they’ll take on the green-browns of their new home at Lookout Lake. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
VIDEO: Lookout Lake stocked with hatchery trout to delight of a seniors fishing club

The Cherish Trout Scouts made plans to come back fishing soon

Traffic is backed up due to a crash on Highway 1. (Photo courtesy of Google Maps)
Traffic backs up on Highway 1 westbound in View Royal after crash

First responders are reportedly on the scene in View Royal

A driver stopped by Saanich police following a road rage incident on April 15 was found to be impaired, in violation of a license restriction and in a damaged vehicle. They received a 90-day driving prohibition and a 30-day vehicle impound. (Saanich Police Traffic Safety Unit/Twitter)
Driver stopped on Pat Bay Highway after road rage reports fails breathalyzer test: police

Several witnesses reported driver to Saanich police, school officer intercepted

Pacific Institution in Abbotsford. (Black Press Media file photo)
Inmate with ties to Victoria dies in Abbotsford institution

Brodie Bingley, who was sentenced for aggravated assault in Maple Ridge died April 13

The site of the proposed rental housing development at 2197 Otter Point Rd. (District of Sooke)
District of Sooke approves development with 77 rental units

New parking lot for John Phillips Memorial Park included in project

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Top doctor warns B.C.’s daily cases could reach 3,000 as COVID hospitalizations surge

There are more than 400 people in hospital, with 125 of them in ICU

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: Do you have a plan in place in the event of a tsunami?

Tsunamis have claimed the lives of more than 250,000 people between 1998… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of April 13

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

A crossing guard stops traffic as students wearing face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 arrive at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. A number of schools in the Fraser Health region, including Woodward Hill, have reported cases of the B.1.7.7 COVID-19 variant first detected in the U.K. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID-infected students in Lower Mainland schools transmitting to 1 to 2 others: data

Eight to 13 per cent of COVID cases among students in the Lower Mainland were acquired in schools, B.C. says

An armed officer walks outside Cerwydden Care on Cowichan Lake Road near Skinner Road Wednesday, April 14 around 5:30 p.m. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Police standoff at Duncan apartment ends peacefully

Officers surround building as homeowner held in apartment for nearly four hours by adult son

Latest modelling by public health shows cases generated by COVID-19 infections into places where it can spread quickly. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
Industrial sites, pubs, restaurants driving COVID-19 spread in B.C.

Infection risk higher in offices, retail, warehouses, farms

The District of Sooke will continue to flower with Communities in Bloom. (Pixabay)
Sooke will bud but not bloom in provincial competition

Council scales back participation in Communities in Bloom

The father of Aaliyah Rosa planted a tree and laid a plaque in her memory in 2018. (Langley Advance Times files)
Final witness will extend Langley child murder trial into May or June

Lengthy trial began last autumn with COVID and other factors forcing it to take longer than expected

Most Read