As scientists and medical experts around the world work tirelessly to find a potential vaccine for COVID-19, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, says that health officials are preparing to deal with the presence of the virus and prevention of further spread for years to come, whether there is a vaccine or not.
During a press conference on Tuesday in Ottawa, the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada spoke to Canadians to temper expectations about the development of a COVID-19 vaccine as a miracle solution to ending the pandemic and return to normal life before the pandemic.
Instead, during the conference, Dr. Theresa Tam reiterated the importance of physical distancing, proper hand hygiene and mask-wearing, and attempted to dissuade any notion that a vaccine will make life go back to the way it was.
“We can’t at this stage just put all of our focus [on a vaccine] in the hopes that this is the silver bullet solution,” said Dr. Tam.
“It is a very important solution if we get a safe and effective vaccine, but I would say that the public health measures that we have in place — the sort of personal, daily measures that we take — is going to have to continue.”
While some major pharmaceutical companies have already stated publicly that a vaccine could be ready before the end of the year, other experts have warned that even 2021 may be an unrealistic timetable for the development of an effective COVID-19 vaccine.
Today, Canada’s leading health officials are saying even that estimate may be too optimistic.
“We’re planning, as a public health community, that we’re going to have to manage this pandemic certainly over the next year, but certainly it may be planning for the longer term in the next two to three years during which the vaccine may play a role. But we don’t know yet,” said Dr. Tam.
How far is Canada in the development of a COVID-19 Vaccine?
According to Health Canada, there are currently 55 COVID-19 drugs, including vaccine candidates, that are currently being investigated in clinical trials that have been authorized for testing by the health agency.
All 55 authorized drugs will be moving through a well-established testing process that involves three phases of human trial.
The first and second phases focus on monitoring whether the drug produces the desired response from the human immune system.
The third phase involves more test subjects and aims to determine whether the vaccine candidate can stop the virus from infecting a body.
While several trials have already reached the third stage, Dr. Tam said that there will be outstanding questions for the development of the vaccine such as “how long the vaccine lasts before a booster shot may be needed” and “whether it prevents an infection or just mitigates the severity”.
Another concern Dr. Tam shared during the press conference today was the question of how quickly there will be enough of an effective vaccine to go around.
“It’s likely that there won’t be enough vaccines for the population, as the vaccine rolls out. So there’ll be prioritization,” said the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada.
In anticipation of a vaccine, the federal government has begun procuring the supplies that will be essential for “mass vaccinations”, starting with ordering enough syringes and bandages to vaccinate the majority of the Canadian population, twice.
In the closing moments of the press conference, Dr. Tam told Canadians that public health officials are planning for a scenario in which current health measures could be required for at least the next two to three years whether or not there is an effective vaccine available.
“[A vaccine] is one important layer of protection,” said Dr. Tam.
“We’re going to have to manage this pandemic certainly over the next year, but certainly [we are] planning for the longer term of the next two to three years during which the vaccine may play a role but we don’t know yet.”
Canada COVID-19 Stats:
Confirmed Cases: 117,333
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