“Canadians … need a vaccine plan before Christmas. A plan with details,” O’Toole told reporters on Thursday, speaking in French.
“(Prime Minister) Justin Trudeau has set September as a possible vaccination objective. Just think about that. Ten more months of business closures, of limitations, rising mental health issues, domestic violence, drug abuse. We all have learned the tragic costs of a shuttered economy.”
O’Toole’s motion asks the government to answer multiple vaccine-related questions, including how vaccines will be delivered, stored, and distributed as well as “the date on which each vaccine type will first be deployed in Canada.”
If the motion passes, the House will call upon the government to table its response to the questions by next Wednesday.
His comments come after Trudeau said last Friday that the “majority” of Canadians could be vaccinated against the coronavirus by September. Health Minister Patty Hajdu also tweeted Wednesday that Canada’s review of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine candidate is “expected to be completed soon,” following the U.K.’s approval of the same vaccine this week.
At least one party appears poised to join the Conservatives in supporting the motion. Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet spoke in favour of the proposal Thursday morning.
“So far, the government has proved to be quite reluctant to provide data, answers, information to the population,” Blanchet said.
“This is a very important way to apply such a pressure on Mr. Trudeau in order to get answer, have some possibility for the people and the businesses to start planning, to understand what’s going on for the provinces, and for Quebec, to know better because they ask for such an information.”
Both public health and government officials have been reluctant to slap an exact timeline on the vaccine rollout as they await regulatory approval of the promising vaccine candidates.
The chief medical adviser at Health Canada said last week that Canada has “similar timelines” to the U.S. and Europe for approval of the vaccine being developed by Pfizer and BioNTech.
“There are multiple things happening at the same time. Health Canada, on the regulatory side, we’re doing our review. The companies that have already finished their clinical trials are working to do their manufacturing. The really complicated part of the vaccine manufacturing process is when they’re doing that scale-up, and they’re doing that now,” Dr. Supriya Sharma said.
“And then it’s the matter of what their volumes are going to be and which volumes are going to which country. So all of that is being determined as we speak, and I think it’s really challenging for anyone, regardless of where they are in the world, to commit to the exact dates.”
She said the best timeline she can offer is that Canada will likely see a limited rollout of a vaccine in January next year, following the earliest possible regulatory approvals taking place in December.
Sharma said Canada is reviewing Pfizer’s vaccine alongside the United States and Europe, which means the vaccine will likely obtain regulatory approval in Canada at the same time the United States gives the candidate its emergency authorization.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has a meeting on Dec. 10 to consider whether to give that vaccine the go-ahead.
Sharma said her hesitancy to assign an exact date to the vaccine rollout is a direct result of the many moving parts involved.
We don’t want to set up expectations that we may not be able to meet,” she said.
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Meanwhile, O’Toole said dates are essential for leadership in the provinces to determine how to prepare for vaccine rollout.
“We need a timeline for each vaccine, and we need a plan for the rollout to the provinces,” O’Toole said.
“There’s no plan now.”
Hajdu, however, has insisted that Canada is on track to roll out a vaccine as soon as it’s approved and ready.
“Making sure a COVID-19 vaccine is safe before approving it is Health Canada’s priority, and when a vaccine is ready, Canada will be ready,” she tweeted on Wednesday.