Ottawa, EOHU already planning for COVID-19 vaccine rollout
Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer says early data suggests its vaccine is highly effective
Ottawa-area health officials have begun discussing what a potential COVID-19 vaccine rollout could look like, while also urging people to keep their expectations in check.
On Monday, pharmaceutical company Pfizer announced that early data suggested its vaccine — one of seven that Canada has pre-ordered — may be 90 per cent effective at preventing COVID-19.
While the news does not mean a vaccine is imminent, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said his hope one would be "coming early next year."
In Ottawa, any rollout would likely adopt elements from this year's appointment-based flu vaccination program, with inoculation "hubs" around the city, health board chair Coun. Keith Egli said.
The city would have to procure ultra-cold freezer units to keep the vaccine "viable," Egli said. The Pfizer vaccine is what's known as an mRNA vaccine — a relatively new type that must be kept significantly colder than protein-based vaccines.
Egli cautioned that any plans are still in the early stages.
"We're talking about a vaccine that's showing promising results, but still, it's not been approved," he said.
"We have a media release from Pfizer which is very positive. We have some people, obviously, looking at it at the highest levels. I'm sure Health Canada is looking into it as we speak. But no, we don't have a sense of ... when it's going to become available to people in Canada, let alone in Ottawa."
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Don't relax: OPH
Ottawa Public Health is aiming to get shots "into people's arms" as soon as the city receives them, said Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa's medical officer of health.
Despite this week's heartening news, Etches urged people to keep following COVID-19 prevention protocols.
"We have to make it through to the vaccine. And there's a lot of harm to be done if we relax too much," she said.
The federal National Advisory Committee on Immunization has issued preliminary guidelines on who should get first access to a vaccine — including the elderly, those with high-risk medical conditions and primary health-care providers.
Those guidelines would likely be "standardized across the board," said Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, medical officer of health for the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU).
If the Pfizer vaccine were approved, Roumeliotis said EOHU would get the freezers, which are currently in significant demand.
With files from Laura Glowacki and Natalia Goodwin