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‘Good riddance’ to 2020: Trudeau urges COVID-19 vigilance over the holidays

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: Canada to receive 125,000 Pfizer vaccines per week starting in January' Coronavirus: Canada to receive 125,000 Pfizer vaccines per week starting in January
WATCH ABOVE: Canada to receive 125,000 Pfizer vaccines per week starting in January – Dec 18, 2020

It’s been a tough year, but with a light at the end of the tunnel now is not the time to drop our defences against the novel coronavirus, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday.

“Our fight against this virus is far from over even as we’re preparing to say goodbye — and good riddance — to 2020,” Trudeau said. “It may be the holiday season but we have to be more careful than ever.”

Vaccinations against COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, began rolling out this week nearly a year after the pandemic  transformed life for many in Canada and around the world.

Read more: What’s in Pfizer’s vaccine? A look at the ingredients

As Canada embarks on the largest immunization campaign in its history, Trudeau said he is confident the country has the planning and expertise in place to get the job done.

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While that’s good news, the prime minister cautioned that there’s still a long way to go.

“We are still very much in the middle of this second wave,” Trudeau said.

Click to play video 'Prime Minister Trudeau meets with COVID-19 vaccine recipients in Ottawa' Prime Minister Trudeau meets with COVID-19 vaccine recipients in Ottawa
Prime Minister Trudeau meets with COVID-19 vaccine recipients in Ottawa – Dec 15, 2020

Trudeau confirmed Friday that Canada is set to receive 500,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine by the end of January, with 125,000 doses of the vaccine arriving every week.

Four million doses of the Pfizer vaccine should arrive in Canada by the end of March, Procurement Minister Anita Anand said at a separate press conference Friday. That’s enough to vaccinate two million people.

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Canada should also see doses of the Moderna vaccine begin to arrive before the end of December, pending regulatory approval, with more to come in the first few months of 2021.

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Priority groups are first in line, with the goal of administering vaccines to the majority of Canadians by the end of the summer.

“With the guaranteed millions of doses coming in 2021, every Canadian who wants a vaccine will get one, no matter where they live,” Trudeau said.

But that promise of a future vaccine won’t help you if you become ill with COVID-19 while you wait for your turn, Trudeau said.

“Getting a vaccine in a week or in a month won’t do you any good if you catch COVID-19 today,” Trudeau said. “That’s why we need to keep working to halt the spread of COVID-19. So please continue to follow public guidelines.”

Canada is seeing daily case counts soar to new heights in the days heading into the Christmas holiday season. More than 7,000 confirmed cases of the virus were confirmed Thursday, marking a new daily milestone as infections continue to climb at a worrying rate.

Read more: U.S. is planning to vaccinate 39 million more people than Canada this year. Here’s why

Two of the largest provinces — Ontario and Alberta — hit grim milestones this week, as well. Ontario marked a new record of daily cases, while Alberta saw its highest number of deaths in a single day since the pandemic began.

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There is growing pressure to further tighten restrictions within the hardest-hit parts of the country, particularly as hospitals fall under increasing strain. Doctors in Ontario have called for further shutdowns, warning of bed shortages, and increased deaths should the number of patients continue to grow.

Hospitals in Alberta and Quebec are warning of similar outcomes. Many have been forced to scale back health-care services and elective surgeries to attend to COVID-19 patients — an indication that things are headed for the worst, experts say.

The concerning numbers are starkly juxtaposed with the arrival of vaccines in Canada.

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: Canada secures 2nd agreement with Moderna for early vaccine doses' Coronavirus: Canada secures 2nd agreement with Moderna for early vaccine doses
Coronavirus: Canada secures 2nd agreement with Moderna for early vaccine doses – Dec 15, 2020

Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine has already been doled out in a number of provinces. A second vaccine, from Moderna, is expected to be approved by Health Canada soon with 168,000 doses set to arrive in the country before the end of the year.

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is also working toward issuing an emergency use authorization of the vaccine. U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence alluded to the imminent approval while he received his vaccination on Friday morning during a live televised event.

“The American people can be confident: we have one and perhaps within hours two safe vaccines,” Pence said.

Read more: Canada begins coronavirus vaccine rollout. Here are the provinces’ plans

The good news about vaccines has led many health experts, including Canada’s top doctors, to warn people not to let their guard down, especially as the busy holiday season approaches.

“It is important to remember that the vast majority of Canadians remain susceptible to COVID-19,” Canada’s chief medical officer Dr. Theresa Tam said in a statement Thursday.

— with files from Global News’ Sean Boynton