COVID-19 vaccine efforts provide hope but no silver bullet to stop pandemic: Tam

COVID-19 vaccine efforts provide hope but no silver bullet to stop pandemic: Tam

OTTAWA — Canada’s top public health doctors warned Tuesday that vaccines in development for COVID-19 provide hope but will not mean an immediate end to the pandemic.

Dr. Theresa Tam said the Public Health Agency of Canada is planning to be responding to the pandemic for at least a year and more likely two or three.

“I would say that a vaccine is a very important aspect of the response going forward but we can’t, at this stage, put all of our focus in the hopes this is the silver-bullet solution,” Tam said at a national briefing on the COVID-19 situation in Canada.

“It is a very important solution if we get a safe and effective vaccine but I would say the public health measures that we have in place, the personal daily measures that we take, is going to have to continue.”

There are more than two dozen vaccines for COVID-19 in clinical trials around the world, and in the best-case scenario, one or two might be approved for widespread use by the end of the year. But approval is only a step in the process, and it will take time to then produce, distribute and administer billions of doses of vaccine around the world.

Dr. Srinivas Murthy, a critical-care specialist and pandemic researcher at the University of British Columbia, says the world has never attempted a vaccine program at this speed or scale before.

“We have no idea how this is going to work,” he said.

He said once a vaccine is approved, then the questions become who gets it first, will people feel comfortable taking it, and how do you get it into them.

Volker Gerdts, CEO of the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization at the University of Saskatchewan, said he wants Canadians to know that even as the timeline for developing vaccines is accelerated, speed is not coming at the expense of safety. He said Health Canada will not approve a vaccine that is not safe or that cut safety corners to get through faster.

In 2009, when the H1N1 flu virus was declared a pandemic, there was a wide-scale vaccination effort but that illness did not have the same impact as COVID-19, and the development of the vaccine was different because flu vaccines are developed every year.

Murthy said the world knew it should have a specific coronavirus vaccine because a pandemic like this was predicted, but nobody ever got as far as making one, so the research was starting much further behind where H1N1 was when a pandemic was declared. COVID-19 is also wider-spread and more lethal than H1N1 was.

“The whole world wants this one at the exact same time and that is something that is going to require unprecedented amounts of co-ordination and collaboration across the world,” Murthy said.

The World Health Organization says vaccines must be effective in at least 50 per cent of the population for any chance of approval, and closer to 70 per cent is better. Once a vaccine developer declares a vaccine is both safe and effective, nations can begin the work to approve its use on their citizens.

Here that falls to Health Canada, which is already working with the provinces, through the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, to determine how approval, manufacture and distribution will work. The committee is expected to announce before the end of the summer which segments of the population will be prioritized for getting the vaccine.

During the H1N1 pandemic, which was found to affect children more and seniors less, priority groups included the very young, health workers, remote communities and people with chronic illnesses under the age of 65. This time the expectation is that older Canadians and front-line workers may be among the priority groups.

Statistics Canada reported that about two in five Canadians were vaccinated in the first six months the H1N1 vaccine was available. Supply of a COVID-19 vaccine may be more difficult, with such high demand. Canada is also, at the moment, limited in its ability to produce a vaccine at home and may rely on international manufacturers to help.

University of British Columbia pediatric infectious disease specialist Dr. Manish Sadarangani said people should see the goal as “controlling” the pandemic rather than “ending” it. He said realistically, a vaccine will only slow the spread of the novel coronavirus at first: it often takes years, if not decades, to eradicate a virus entirely.

Measles, mumps and polio all have vaccines, he notes, but they still exist and spread, often because of a lack of vaccinations.

However, he added, we don’t have to vaccinate everyone to control transmission because reducing the number of people who can get or spread the virus will cut down on the infection rate.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 4, 2020.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

Coronavirus

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

Just Posted

2020 Ponoka business awards
Ponoka chamber 2020 Business Award winners

The Ponoka and District Chamber of Commerce 2020 Business Awards were held… Continue reading

Ryen Williams, 11, with a lost miniature horse at JJ Collett Oct. 23. Photo by Don Williams
UPDATE: Owner found

Father and son found miniature horse while out for a walk at JJ Collett

Alberta has 3,651 active cases of COVID-19. (File photo)
432 new COVID cases sets another record Friday

Central zone holds steady at 126 active cases

(Emily Jaycox/Ponoka News)
Ponoka FCSS’ Empty Bowls sells out

For the first time ever, Ponoka Family and Community Support Services’ (FCSS’s)… Continue reading

"We are looking seriously at the spread and determining what our next steps should be," says Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, as the daily number of COVID-19 cases continues to climb.
427 new COVID cases is highest in Alberta ever

Central zone has 126 active cases of COVID-19

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau. (Black Press Media)
VIDEO: One day until B.C. voters go to the polls in snap election defined by pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan’s decision to call an election comes more than a year ahead of schedule and during a pandemic

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

Leader of the Opposition Erin O’Toole rises during Question Period in the House of Commons Thursday October 22, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
O’Toole tells Alberta UCP AGM Liberals were ‘late and confused’ on COVID response

He says Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has taken charge and not waited to make things happen

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney arrives for an announcement at a news conference in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Inquiry into oil and gas foes to deliver report next year: Kenney

A lawsuit filed by environmental law firm Ecojustice argues the inquiry is politically motivated

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

This photo provided by Air Force Reserve shows a sky view of Hurricane Epsilon taken by Air Force Reserve hurricane hunter team over the Atlantic Ocean taken Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020.   Epsilon’s maximum sustained winds have dropped slightly as it prepares to sideswipe Bermuda on a path over the Atlantic Ocean.  The National Hurricane Center says it should come close enough Thursday, Oct. 22, evening to merit a tropical storm warning for the island.  (Air Force Reserve via AP)
Hurricane Epsilon expected to remain offshore but will push waves at Atlantic Canada

Epsilon is not expected to have any real impact on land

A voter places her absentee ballot in the ballot box, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020, at Merrill Auditorium in Portland, Maine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Robert F. Bukaty
American voters living in Canada increasingly being counted in presidential race

The largest number of Canadian-based American voters cast their ballots in New York and California

A composite image of three photographs shows BC NDP Leader John Horgan, left, in Coquitlam, B.C., on Sept. 25, 2020; BC Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau, centre, in Victoria on Sept. 24, 2020; and BC Liberal Party Leader Andrew Wilkinson Pitt Meadows, B.C., on Sept. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck, Chad Hipolito
British Columbia votes in snap election called during COVID-19 pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan called the snap election one year before the fixed voting date

Nunavut's provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, on Tuesday June 30, 2020. The annual report from Nunavut's representative for children and youth says "complacency and a lack of accountability" in the territory's public service means basic information about young people needing services isn’t tracked. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Nunavut’s young people ‘should be expecting more’ from government services: advocate

‘The majority of information we requested is not tracked or was not provided by departments’

Most Read