Prime Minister Justin Trudeau leaves the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau leaves the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

VIDEO: Liberals defend COVID-19 vaccine deals and distribution plans

Canada signed a deal to purchase 56 million doses of vaccine from Moderna on July 24

The Liberals are pushing back against allegations from their political rivals that the federal government has failed Canadians on COVID-19 vaccines, noting Canada was one of the first countries to order doses from several foreign suppliers.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau admitted last week that other countries with domestic vaccine production are likely to inoculate their citizens first before shipping doses to Canada, which prompted an outcry from the opposition parties.

The Conservatives have also accused the Liberals of having put too much faith in what was ultimately a failed partnership between the National Research Council and a Chinese company to develop a made-in-Canada vaccine.

The Liberal government confirmed in August the deal with CanSino Biologics had fallen apart, after the Chinese government blocked the shipment of doses for clinical trials in Canada. The Tories are now pushing for parliamentary hearings into the arrangement.

On Tuesday, Procurement Minister Anita Anand said Canada was one of the first countries to sign a deal with U.S.-based pharmaceutical firm Moderna — and that the company has confirmed it will be one of the first to receive doses of its vaccine.

Anand decried what she described as “misinformation” around vaccines, noting that Moderna “has stated publicly that Canada is at the head of the line for its vaccine doses.”

Canada signed a deal to purchase 56 million doses of vaccine from Moderna on July 24, according to the government. That was 18 days before the U.S. government reached its own agreement with the firm, and months before Britain, the European Union and Japan.

Canada was also the fourth country to finalize a deal with Pfizer after the U.S., Britain and Japan, Anand added, again noting the company has confirmed the timeline. And it was the first country without the ability to mass produce vaccines domestically to ink an agreement with AstraZeneca.

The three vaccines, along with another developed by Johnson & Johnson, are now being reviewed by Health Canada for approval. The government is hoping distribution to Canadians will begin in the first quarter of 2021.

The timing of any vaccine delivery and distribution has become a major question for the government, opposition parties and Canadians who have been struggling physically, financially and emotionally through nearly nine months of the pandemic.

Anand listed numerous other measures to ensure Canada is ready to start immunizing people when the vaccines are approved, including the purchase of freezers to store doses and enlisting the military to help with logistics.

Asked exactly when the vaccines will arrive, however, Anand replied: “It is not possible to circle a single date on a calendar.” She went on to suggest the question has become politicized, but that safety will trump any political considerations.

Opposition parties continued to demand more information from the government while repeating past allegations that the Liberals dragged their feet on vaccines.

“There’s no question that other countries landed priority on vaccines ahead of Canada while Trudeau was dithering and spinning his wheels in the middle of last summer,” said Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre said.

The Conservatives also pushed to probe the deal with CanSino at the House of Commons industry committee.

The Tories want more information about a $44-million project to upgrade a National Research Council facility in Montreal as part of that arrangement, and how the deal with CanSino might have affected the timely procurement of vaccines from elsewhere.

Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet appeared to suggest the Liberals should have used emergency laws in the spring to take existing technology from elsewhere and put it to use for Canada, dealing with the intellectual property issue after the fact.

Governments across the country are also figuring out who will be immunized first.

Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, said that according to what science suggests about who is most at risk from COVID-19, the initial round of vaccines should go to those in high-risk situations such as hospitals and care homes. The next batch, she added, should be distributed by age, with the oldest at the front of the line.

Trudeau declined to get into specifics, including whether he should be one of the first inoculated, saying he is “going to trust experts to make the right determination of what the priority populations are.”

READ MORE: UK becomes first to authorize Pfizer coronavirus vaccine for emergency use

Meanwhile, the prime minister said the federal government is stepping up assistance in two northern communities struggling with COVID-19.

The Canadian Red Cross is sending specialists to the predominantly Inuit community of Arviat in Nunavut, which has seen dozens of cases, while the Canadian Rangers are also being deployed to the Hatchet Lake First Nation in northern Saskatchewan.

The moves come as provinces reported thousands of new cases across the country Tuesday, along with dozens more deaths.

Alberta, the province with the highest rate of COVID-19 — 223 per 100,000 people — reported 1,307 new cases and 479 people in hospital. Leaked health projections show hospitalizations there could soar to 775 by mid-December, with 161 people in intensive care.

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister said restrictions on public gatherings and business openings in the province, where the daily rise in cases has levelled off after a spike last month, could remain into the winter as the health-care system continues to strain.

The province also said it handed out 100 tickets to people not following public health orders last week, after setting strict limits on public gatherings and requiring non-essential businesses to close.

A mandatory-mask order was also implemented for all indoor public spaces in Yukon as Premier Sandy Silver reported eight new cases in the territory over the past week, bringing its total to 47 since the start of the pandemic.

—With files from Beth Leighton in Vancouver, Steve Lambert in Winnipeg, Mia Rabson in Ottawa and Kevin Bissett in Fredericton.

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusLiberalsvaccines

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

Just Posted

District of Vanderhoof municipal office. (Aman Parhar/Omineca Express)
Vanderhoof district rejects FOI request for business name

Officials will release more information about the restaurant on May 21

Audrey McKinnon is seeking the NDP nomination for the federal riding of Cariboo-Prince George. (Twitter)
Audrey McKinnon puts name forward for NDP for federal election

McKinnon preparing for a contested nomination for Prince George-Cariboo riding

Michael Rees at his studio on the first floor of the old Burrard Market Square building. (Aman Parhar/Omineca Express)
Painter and print-maker showcased at Vanderhoof Street Art Show

Michael Rees uses narrative in a majority of his work

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has suspended indoor dining at restaurants and pubs until at least April 19 in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. sets new COVID-19 daily record with 1,293 cases Thursday

New order allows workplace closures when infections found

The new 3,500 hectare conservancy in Tahltan territory is located next to Mount Edziza Provincial Park. (BC Parks Photo)
New conservancy protects sacred Tahltan land near Mount Edziza Provincial Park

Project is a collaboration between Skeena Resources, conservation groups and the TCG

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

Robinson Russ, 37, was fatally stabbed on April 4, according to a statement from police. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver police name victim following city’s fourth homicide of 2021

Robinson Russ, 37, was fatally stabbed Sunday in the Downtown Eastside

A man wears a face mask past the emergency department of the Vancouver General Hospital. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
Calls for stricter action in B.C. as COVID-19 variants projected to climb

Jens von Bergmann says the province has taken a ‘wait and see’ approach when early action is needed

Vancouver’s park board general manager issued a new order Friday restricting tents and other temporary structures from being set up in Strathcona Park after April 30, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver park board issues order to restrict tents in Strathcona Park

The order issued Friday restricted tents and other temporary structures from being set up after April 30

Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning says the players who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 are recovering and the team still intends to play a 56-game season. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Canucks players ‘mostly on the other side’ of COVID outbreak: general manager

The athletes have had a “whole range” of COVID-19 symptoms, said team physician Dr. Jim Bovard, but no one has needed to be hospitalized

Police are investigating after a man was shot Thursday, April 8 while sitting in a car in Vancouver. (Black Press files)
Man shot in Vancouver while sitting in a parked car: police

The victim is currently in critical condition. Police say no arrests have been made.

Teachers from SD42 and other districts in the Lower Mainland flocked to Surrey on Tuesday in the hopes of getting a COVID-19 vaccine. (Sheelagh Brothers/Twitter)
Don’t line up for vaccines unless asked to come, Dr. Bonnie Henry warns

Social media post shows teachers lining up outside of Surrey clinic for leftover doses

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP is seeking public tips regarding a break-in that left multiple people injured in Vernon Saturday, March 6, 2021. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
Cariboo teacher charged in child exploitation case

Charge laid against teacher at Peter Skene Ogden

Most Read