There may be light at the end of the pandemic tunnel for B.C., even as the province deals with a surge in cases and an increase in deaths due to the virus.
“We expect, and what we’re planning for, is the first week of January, week one of 2021 to be ready to deliver the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines,” provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Wednesday (Nov. 25).
The two COVID-19 vaccines that look most ready to be deployed come the new year are made by Pfizer and Moderna, and both use messenger RNA (mRNA) technology. Preliminary data shows that both vaccines are at least 90 per cent effective, but both come with challenges.
Pfizer’s vaccine needs to be stored at -70 C, while Moderna’s needs a temperature around -20 C. The federal government is working on procuring 126 freezers, including 26 ultracold ones, to hold millions of doses of vaccines. Pfizer’s vaccine has been sent to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory committee for emergency approval on Dec. 10.
Here in B.C., Henry said that the vaccines will first need to be approve by Health Canada before the province can get its hands on them.
“Our job is to make sure we’re… ready, as soon as the vaccine is ready, to get it to the people who need that protection here,” she said.
Henry said that Dr. Ross Brown of Vancouver Coastal Health will join the group working to organize the logistics.
The question of who will get the vaccine first relies on Canada’s ethical framework, which prioritizes people at high-risk, health-care workers and other essential employees.
“We will not have enough vaccine in the first few weeks to months of the vaccine program to give vaccination to all of those people in those priority groups. So where do start?” she said, acknowledging the difficulties that will come with outsourcing vaccine production. Canada does not have the manufacturing capacity to make the COVID-19 vaccines in-house.
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