Addressing the reactions from frustrated medical professionals who have voiced concerns over an influential national panel of immunization experts’ most recent COVID-19 vaccine advice to Canadians, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sought to make the federal government’s position clear on Tuesday: every vaccine authorized is safe.
“All vaccines in Canada have been approved by Health Canada. Our advice to provinces and territories, and to Canadians, has not changed,” Prime Minister Trudeau said during his national address. “Get your shot as soon as it’s your turn.”
This is in light of The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) being accused of contributing to confusion and doubt about COVID-19 vaccines after doubling down on its position that mRNA vaccines are “preferred” over viral vector doses, and that Canadians should weigh the risks before they decide which one to receive.
Currently, NACI does not recommend that people under 30 be vaccinated with the viral vector shot, but ultimately that’s a decision for provinces to make as part of their respective vaccine rollouts.
NACI also suggested that people who are concerned about the rare risk of blood clots associated with the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson shots could opt to “wait” until they can receive a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.
Prime Minister Trudeau faced other questions about the inconsistency in Health Canada’s views on the four COVID-19 vaccines the agency has approved for use – that they are all safe, effective and can be offered to any adult – and advice that is always changing from NACI.
In response, the Prime Minister said that the federal government’s priority is making sure everyone who wants it, can receive their shot as soon as they are eligible.
Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam also weighed in on Tuesday, saying that Canadians should be confident in receiving any Health Canada-cleared vaccine because they are all shown to be effective. However, she said, people can and should still make their own individual decision based on their personal risk calculation.
With millions of doses of mRNA vaccines slated to land each week going forward and no solid confirmation of the next shipments of AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson, the suggestion that people will be able to receive a viral vector shot before being offered an mRNA vaccine may not play out in reality.
As Procurement Minister Anita Anand highlighted Tuesday, Canada will be receiving up to 36 million doses of mRNA vaccines over the next two months, the majority of which will be Pfizer shots, though the government has gone to pick up the next shipment of Moderna a week early and will be arriving on Wednesday.
In contrast, while Anand said there are another 1.6 million doses of AstraZeneca set to arrive before the end of June, pending ongoing negotiations with the U.S. for more, there is no future Johnson & Johnson deliveries planned after Health Canada held up the first batch of 300,000 for further safety review.
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