The Morning Brief – 12.09.20

By Bruce Carson


Last week the UK approved a COVID-19 vaccine and this week Canada announced that it would be receiving 249,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine

What can be expected next as we move closer to vaccine approval, arrival and deployment?

Today the Bank of Canada deals with interest rates which, based on forward guidance, should remain as they are

Last week, the UK announced that it had approved a COVID-19 vaccine and at this moment it is being used to vaccinate Britons. On Monday of this week Prime Minister Trudeau at what was termed a hastily assembled media availability featuring Procurement Minister Anand, Major-General Fortin, and Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Njoo, announced “vaccines are coming.”

To be clear, at this point, Canada is looking at receiving “up to” 249,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine. While it is not yet approved by Health Canada, that approval is expected within days. The vaccine will be shipped after approval is secured, probably next week.

Dry runs are occurring this week under the supervision of Maj.-Gen. Fortin. Doses will continue to flow in 2021 when it is anticipated a vaccine manufactured by Moderna will also be approved and available.

While this was undoubtedly good news; questions remain. At the end of last week virtually all of government was saying that vaccines would be arriving in January; what changed, when and why? The amount that is to be part of the first shipment is very small when compared to what the UK and the United States expect to receive as part of their first tranche, why?

The opposition, which should take some credit, for the earlier than forecast arrival of the vaccines, will continue to press, for more details.

Procurement Minister Anand at the press conference said that the 249,000 doses would arrive this year and “millions and millions” of doses will flow into the country after approval by Health Canada.

It seems, at this point, the doses will be divided on a per capita basis among the provinces. Because of the delicate nature of the Pfizer vaccine, it will not be delivered to the territories. There are fourteen reception stations across the country, all located in or near urban centers and for the most part in hospital settings.

While there seems to be general agreement across the country regarding the order of distribution to various groups, again the delicate nature of the Pfizer vaccine may make it difficult to vaccinate residents of long term care homes. On Tuesday, Dr. Tam indicated that vaccinations would occur at the delivery sites and not in long term care homes.

At present the order of distribution of doses is first to residents and staff of long term care and assisted living facilities; those 80 or over; health care and support workers with highest exposure to risk and Indigenous communities.

In an interview on Power and Politics, NDP leader Singh pointed out that that the initial delivery would not be sufficient to cover the first priority group. He added that there is still no clear plan for distribution and the UK starts inoculating people on Tuesday.

We also don’t know, but presumably Health Canada does, and will eventually share with Canadians, the goal of the vaccine manufacturer; preventing the subject from contracting COVID-19, preventing death or preventing transmission of the virus, or perhaps all three.

Ahead lays a major undertaking for the provinces, once the vaccines are on the way here. As National Post writer Matt Gurney stated they have to figure out transportation, storage and distribution while keeping track of who gets which vaccine and when.

One of the challenges presented by the Pfizer vaccine and the fourteen distribution points is how to get the vaccine into the arms of the most vulnerable. As noted previously Dr. Tam has stated that distribution to the public of the Pfizer vaccine will take place only at the fourteen sites.

Premier Furey of Newfoundland and Labrador said that only those in the St. John’s area would be inoculated initially. With later arrival of other vaccines, the rest of the province will be serviced. However, Quebec’s Premier Legault has said that Quebec proposes to take the vaccine to long term care homes. This is also a position taken by Premier Higgs of New Brunswick. Obviously this difference of views will have to be dealt with soonest.

Also two issues arose yesterday, one deals with President Donald Trump and the other focusses on liability for possible side effects emanating from the vaccines.

President Trump signed an Executive Order to ensure that U.S. citizens will be first in line to receive vaccines manufactured in the United States. Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc stated that this order would not affect Canada as Pfizer has multiple manufacturing sites and Canada is not receiving vaccines from the United States.

The matter of liability came up at Monday’s media avail and the response from Prime Minister Trudeau was that vaccines “won’t be approved unless they are safe.” He added that Canada has undertaken to ensure that everyone is protected.

Canada is the only G7 country that does not have a vaccine compensation program if a health problem occurs as a result of a vaccine injection. Such a program might encourage more Canadians to take the vaccine.

The announcement of the imminent arrival of vaccines has been as Matt Gurney called it a “public relations win for a government that has been under intense pressure.” However as Kerry Bowman, a bioethicist at the Institute of Medical Science at the University of Toronto said on Sunday any significant delay in receiving and distributing vaccines is going to mean death and economic ruin for a number of people.

Canadians still need a comprehensive plan so they will know when the vaccines are to arrive, their distribution and where individual Canadians are in the line.

The key to success of vaccine distribution lies in what is yet to come with rigorous planning and execution essential. Only through thorough planning which leads to flawless execution can success in such a large venture be achieved. And to provide Canadians with peace of mind, transparency is an absolute requirement.

To Come

  • Bank of Canada deals with interest rates and is expected to make no changes
December 10
  • Anniversary of the kidnapping and illegal incarceration by China of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig
  • First Ministers Meeting on healthcare funding, COVID-19 and vaccines
  • U.S. FDA to deal with Pfizer application for vaccine approval
  • Deputy Governor of the Bank of Canada, Paul Beaudry to deliver a speech dealing with the Bank’s interest rate announcement.
December 15
  • Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem to deliver a speech to the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade
December 16
  • CPI numbers for November to be released
December 17
  • U.S. FDA to review the Moderna application for vaccine approval