Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam speaks as she is joined by Dr. Howard Njoo, Deputy Chief Public Health Officer, during a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Safety won’t be compromised for vaccine, Canada’s top doctors say

Last week, Canada signed deals with two vaccine developers, Pfizer and Moderna

Canada will not cut corners to get a vaccine candidate for COVID-19 approved, the country’s chief public health officer said Tuesday.

As news emerged that Russia had approved the world’s first such vaccine, Dr. Theresa Tam said she is as anxious as anyone for a safe and effective vaccine to be ready, but that getting one quickly doesn’t mean compromising safety.

“Getting this done in record time is no easy feat, as we must ensure any vaccine demonstrates the highest standard of safety and effectiveness,” Tam said at a media briefing in Ottawa.

“There are many steps and partners across research, government and industry required to produce and deliver a safe and effective vaccine. All steps and partners are crucial. Nothing gets cut.”

Tam said for Canada, fast-tracking a vaccine means trying to do some things at the same time. That could mean while a vaccine candidate is still in its third and final clinical trial phase, governments are developing plans to produce, distribute and administer that vaccine if it gets approved.

Scientists both within Russia and outside it sounded alarm at the early approval of the Russian vaccine, which was developed by the Gamaleya Institute in Moscow and Russia’s ministry of defence. Russia’s health ministry claimed that the vaccine, which modifies a common cold virus to try and mimic the novel coronavirus, will make someone immune to COVID-19 for up to two years.

But Russian scientists have published no data on the evidence to back that up.

Tam would not comment on Russia’s vaccine at all because she said she doesn’t have enough information about it.

Her deputy, Dr. Howard Njoo, said there is just not much information available about how effective that vaccine has been, any side effects it had for the people it was tested on, or how many people were involved in those trials. He said one of the only indicators is the amount of time that passed between the discovery of the vaccine and the decision to approve it.

“It seems quite short, based on what we know about how normally vaccine trials go,” Njoo said.

Vaccines normally go through at least three phases of testing, with very small numbers of volunteers receiving it in the first two phases. In phase three, the number of people it is tested on grows exponentially. At least two of the vaccine candidates being developed in the United States are testing their product on 30,000 healthy adults in phase three.

The Moscow vaccine appears to have been given approval before any phase three trial, citing enough success in the first two phases.

Tam warned last week that getting a vaccine approved won’t be a “silver bullet” to stop the pandemic because approval is just the first step. She said Tuesday the success of any approved vaccine will depend heavily on getting Canadians to take it.

The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Canada surpassed the 120,000 mark Tuesday, with 8,987 deaths attributed to the disease. Tam says almost nine in 10 patients have already recovered.

There are more than two dozen COVID-19 vaccine candidates in various clinical testing phases around the world, and Tam said eight are in the third and final phase. Most companies behind those trials have said not to expect results until the fall.

Last week, Canada signed deals with two vaccine developers, Pfizer and Moderna, to get access to millions of doses of their experimental vaccines if they succeed at phase three trials and are approved by Health Canada. The earliest either is expected to arrive in Canada for use in patients is next winter.

Tam said she is “cautiously optimistic” a vaccine is coming and she has full confidence in Health Canada’s approval process to ensure any vaccine Canadians are given is both safe and effective.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

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

Just Posted

Cullen confirmed as B.C. NDP candidate for Stikine despite party’s equity policy

Former Tahltan Central Government President Annita McPhee said the process made her feel “abused”

Citing stability, B.C. Premier calls snap election for Oct. 24

John Horgan meets with Lieutenant Governor to request vote

B.C. snap election: What we know about candidates running in the Nechako Lakes riding

Premier Horgan called for a snap election Monday, Sept. 21.

Vanderhoof’s Anonymous Art Show aims to go Canada-wide next year

The Anonymous Art Show in it’s second year is gaining popularity across… Continue reading

SD91 develops course to explore student identity and diversity

School District 91 has developed a course for grade 8 students that… Continue reading

B.C. reports 91 new cases as officials remain worried over ‘clusters of COVID-19

There have now been a total of 8,395 cases in B.C. since the pandemic began

Canada’s active COVID-19 cases top 10,000 as daily new cases triple over the past month

Dr. Tam repeated her warning to young people, who have made up the majority of recent cases

First 8 months of fatal overdoses in B.C. have now exceeded 2019 death toll

Nine people died every two days in August, BC Coroners Service data shows

Liberal effort to reset policy agenda panned by rivals as too much talk, not action

Trudeau said it’s ‘all too likely’ families won’t be able to gather for Thanksgiving next month

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

‘Show us the money’ for cannabis, local governments tell B.C.

Municipal tax, transit revenues falling as costs rise

‘It’s a boy’: Southern Resident killer whale calf born to J Pod is healthy, researchers say

J35 had previously done a ‘Tour of Grief,’ carrying her dead calf for 17 days

People ‘disgusted’ by COVID-19 election call, B.C. Liberal leader says

Andrew Wilkinson speaks to municipal leaders from Victoria

Horgan blasts B.C. Greens for refusing youth overdose detention

Lack of support key to B.C. election call, NDP leader says

Most Read