COVID-19 in Canada: Who will get 'limited' supply of COVID-19 vaccine first? Health officials outline priorities, but challenges lie ahead

Elisabetta Bianchini
·6-min read
COVID-19 in Canada: Who will get 'limited' supply of COVID-19 vaccine first? Health officials outline priorities, but challenges lie ahead
COVID-19 in Canada
COVID-19 in Canada

For more on today’s top stories and the spread of the novel coronavirus across the country, please refer to our live updates below throughout the day, as well as our COVID-19 news hub.

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health calls leaked audio from planning meetings a ‘personal betrayal’

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, responded to a CBC News story that revealed information from leaked audio recordings from daily planning meetings of the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC). They reveal that Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and cabinet ministers “micromanaged” actions of civil servants and “pushed an early relaunch strategy that seemed more focused on the economy” rather than public health.

“I am profoundly disappointed that confidential, internal conversations have been shared,” Dr. Hinshaw said. “Actions that are a violation of the public service oath and code of conduct.”

“This is a personal betrayal and a betrayal of the trust that our hard working team has placed in each other.”

She went on to say that the comments in the leaked recording are “taken out of context” from many other discussions that would have occurred over a number of days.

“My role is to provide the best advice possible to elected officials on how to protect the public health of all Albertans,” Dr. Hinshaw said. “It remains my hope that Albertans understand that, and respect that every conversation I have puts their health and a holistic consideration of all aspects of their health first.”

“There are no risk-free options with COVID-19. This pandemic has challenged us all and required a wide-range of complex decisions, all of which have strengths and weaknesses.”

Alberta's chief medical officer of health said she “should not” dictate details of each policy discussion because she is not an elected official.

“The final decisions are up to elected officials who were chosen by Albertans, this is how democracy works,” Dr. Hinshaw said. “I know that there are many views about how we should proceed however, we are becoming divided when we most need to engage in respectful dialogue.”

“My professional integrity is incredibly important to me and when I’ve taken an oath that indicates that I will provide the recommendations to elected officials in confidence, it would be inappropriate for me, and a violation of my professional integrity, to break that.”

The report from CBC News indicates that these recordings “suggest a desire by Health Minister [Tyler] Shandro to exert control over enforcement of public health orders.”

When asked about any directive the health minister is giving to Alberta Health Services around enforcement and needing to go through his office, Shandro said the question was “insane.” He went on to say that the suggestion that this is happening is “totally wrong and completely insane.”

Canada will get ‘limited’ supply of vaccine doses to start

Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, confirmed that as many as six million doses could be available in early 2021 but supplies will be “limited.”

The key population that will prioritized for vaccinations in Canada include:

  • Those at high risk of severe illness and death

  • Those most likely to transmit COVID-19 to those at high risk

  • Workers essential to maintaining the COVID-19 responses (healthcare workers and care givers in long-term care facilities)

  • Those contributing to maintaining other essential service for the function of society (police and firefighters

  • Those living or working in condition that puts them at an elevated risk of infection, and where infection could have disproportionate consequences (Indigenous communities).

“While the initial supply will be limited, I want to be clear that we will have sufficient vaccines, such that every Canadian has the ability to be immunized,” Dr. Njoo said. “With a country as geographically large as ours, we can expect some logistical challenges ahead.”

Dr. Supriya Sharma, a senior medical advisor with Health Canada, indicated Canada will continue to use a “rigorous scientific review system” for COVID-19 vaccines.

“We will only authorize a vaccine if its benefits clearly outweigh its risk,” she said.

Dr. Sharma said Canada is looking at a “similar timeline” for the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine as the U.S. and Europe, which could see approvals next month by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. However, earlier this week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau admitted that pharmaceutical companies would prioritize doses for their home citizens first.

Ontario premier waiting for answers to questions around Canada’s vaccine procurement

At a press conference on Thursday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said he is still looking for some answers from the federal government around vaccine allocations.

“Talking to the other premiers, we have a lot of questions to ask,” Ford said. “When are we getting it? What are we getting? And how much are we getting?”

“Even if we get dribs and drabs, that plays a critical role and it depends on what vaccine we get. We need answers because we have to start planning. It’s absolutely critical.”

The premier went on to say that Canada should be “first in line” to get any COVID-19 vaccines, after Trudeau’s statement earlier in the week about vaccine-producing countries likely to prioritize their own population, which could impact the delivery of these vaccines to Canada in 2021.

“We can’t have our U.S. neighbours...getting vaccines and Canada’s waiting two, three months,” Ford said. “As their economy starts taking off, when they have the vaccines, and we’re sitting back twiddling our thumbs wondering when we’re going to get it.”

Hospitalizations continue to rise in Ontario

Ontario reported 1,478 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, including 572 cases in Peel, 356 in Toronto and 111 in York Region.

The province confirmed 21 more deaths, bringing the total to 3,575.

There are currently 556 people with COVID-19 in Ontario hospitals, including 151 in ICUs, and there are 108 long-term care homes with an outbreak. Active cases related to long-term care include 543 resident cases and 429 staff cases.

The province completed 47,576 test in the last day, with 52,852 tests currently under investigation.

Ontario reported 88 new school-related COVID-19 cases, 70 student cases and 18 staff cases. Four schools are closed due to COVID-19 concerns.

Quebec cases rise over 1,400

Quebec reported 1,464 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday after cases have been below 1,200 for four days.

The province confirmed 32 more deaths, eight of which occurred in the last 24 hours.

There are currently 675 people in Quebec hospitals with COVID-19, including 90 in intensive care.

Check out our COVID-19 in Canada topic page for latest news, tips, health updates, cases and more.