Canada

Amid third wave of COVID, Trudeau says he has no regrets about Canada’s vaccine rollout

Trudeau defended his government’s efforts, even as cases rise, an increase that could have been slowed if the vaccine had been administered more widely and quickly

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OTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said there is nothing about Canada’s vaccine procurement effort he would do differently, even as a third wave of cases surges across much of the country.

Few countries have completely blunted a third wave with vaccines, but the U.S. and the U.K. are seeing much lower rates now because of their widespread vaccine use. Trudeau defended his government’s efforts, even with cases on the rise, an increase that could have been slowed if the vaccine had been administered more widely and quickly.

“We worked extremely hard from last summer onwards to sign many different contracts with different potential vaccine makers around the world,” he said.

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole took aim at the slow rollout in question period Tuesday, raising a critical piece from American network CNN and saying it showed the government was negligent in getting vaccines to Canadians.

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“Will the prime minister admit that his failure to secure sufficient vaccines is leading to a catastrophic third wave?” O’Toole asked. “How many Canadians are now being infected with COVID-19 variants because of this government’s slow and confused rollout of vaccines?”

For the first time in the pandemic, Canada has a higher per capita rate of COVID cases than the U.S., despite lax public health measures in many American states, with the vaccine rollout blunting the rise of cases in the U.S.

During a press conference, Trudeau said Canada’s vaccine shipments may have started slow, but there were problems outside of the government’s control and shipments were now coming regularly.

“We’ve seen various vaccine companies, challenged with development and manufacturing issues. But, in general, the vaccines have been arriving in Canada in steadily increasing numbers.”

Canada will receive nearly two million doses this week, including 855,000 doses of Moderna’s vaccine that was originally forecast for last week, and more than one million Pfizer doses.

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Trudeau said vaccines alone can not address the pandemic and encouraged Canadians to follow all public health measures and reduce their contacts.

“ICU beds in hospitals are filling up, the patients in them are younger and younger. This is not the place anyone wanted to be in right now.”

Amid third wave of COVID, Trudeau says he has no regrets about Canada's vaccine rollout

He said the U.K., a world leader in vaccine delivery, also had tough restrictions that have helped reduce cases.

“They obviously have a higher rate of vaccination than we have. But they also have significant restrictions that have been in place for quite a long time,” said Trudeau. “What we need in order to ease restrictions in this country as we get closer to summer is for more people to get vaccinated. And for the caseload, to go down across the country.”

Trudeau’s defence of his vaccine program came as new potential issues cropped up with two candidates.

Canada reported its first case of a rare blood clot in someone with the AstraZeneca vaccine on Tuesday. The clot was not fatal and the woman from Quebec was recuperating at home.

Earlier this month, the blood clot issue, which had previously only been seen in cases abroad, led the government to focus the vaccine on those people over the age of 55, where the risk of a clot was less likely and the risk of severe outcomes from COVID much higher.

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The clots still seem rare with the new Canadian case being the first despite at least 700,000 doses having been administered.

Amid third wave of COVID, Trudeau says he has no regrets about Canada's vaccine rollout

U.S. health agencies were also recommending a pausing in use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The company’s one-shot vaccine has been in use in the United States for weeks, but there have been six cases of rare blood clots in the 6.8 million people who have received the shot.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said health regulators will watch closely for other issues. The restrictions after rare adverse outcomes were proof the system was working, she said.

She said Health Canada would follow the same process with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine that it did with AstraZeneca.

“You have seen the process once already, that the regulator in Health Canada follows when there is an international report of a signal of an adverse effect following immunization, with the AstraZeneca vaccine.”

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