People line up at a COVID-19 assessment centre during the COVID-19 pandemic in Scarborough, Ont., on Wednesday, December 2, 2020. Toronto and Peel region continue to be in lockdown. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

People line up at a COVID-19 assessment centre during the COVID-19 pandemic in Scarborough, Ont., on Wednesday, December 2, 2020. Toronto and Peel region continue to be in lockdown. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

COVID-19 vaccine approval could be days away as pressures mount on health-care system

Many health officials in regions across the country have reported increasing pressures on hospitals

Senior Health Canada officials said they could be just days away from approving a COVID-19 vaccine as many provinces reported increasing hospitalizations and Quebec cancelled plans to allow gatherings over the Christmas holidays on Thursday.

Chief medical adviser Dr. Supriya Sharma said final documents from the American drugmaker Pfizer are expected Friday. It will include which production lots of the vaccine will be shipped to Canada and when.

Sharma wouldn’t put an exact date on approval or delivery yet, but said once the “key information” is delivered from Pfizer, she will be able to tell Canadians the news they have been longing to hear.

Moderna’s vaccine is expected to receive approval soon after.

The supply will initially be limited to about three million people. Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, said Thursday they are targeting priority groups that will most benefit from an earlier vaccine while reducing the spread of the virus.

“In a country as geographically large and diverse as ours, we are facing some logistical complexities,” he said, including reaching remote communities and co-ordinating between various levels of government.

The Canadian Armed Forces received formal orders last week to start planning for the distribution of COVID-19 immunizations in the most ambitious and complex vaccine rollout in the country’s history. Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, who is leading the country’s distribution effort, said the speed, scope and scale of this plan makes it unique.

READ MORE: Defence chief says CAF will be ready after ordering COVID-19 vaccine prep last week

A planning directive for Operation Vector includes preparations on vaccine-storage facilities and notes the possibility of flying doses on short notice from Spain, Germany and the U.S.

Many health officials in regions across the country have reported increasing pressures on hospitals and front-line workers during the second wave of the pandemicas they prepare for upcoming distribution of the vaccine.

Premier Francois Legault announced Quebec will no longer go forward with a plan to permit multi-household gatherings of up to 10 people over four days during the holidays.

Hospitalizations declined slightly in that province to 737, but the number of people in the intensive care unit remained unchanged at 99 on Thursday.

Legault said it was not realistic to think the numbers will go down sufficiently by Christmas.

Ontario reported 666 people are hospitalized Thursday with COVID-19, with 195 in intensive care. There were 1,824 new cases and 14 more deaths due to the virus.

Manitoba reported 367 new infections and 12 additional deaths Thursday. Officials have emphasized that the health-care system is running near capacity with 357 people in hospital and 52 in intensive care due to COVID-19.

The seven-day rolling average of new cases nationally is 6,044.

READ MORE: 834 new cases, 12 new COVID-19 deaths as B.C. works on immunization strategy

— With files from Mia Rabson

Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirusvaccines

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

As of Friday, Alberta has under 10,000 active COVID-19 cases. (Image courtesy CDC)
Three new COVID-19 deaths in Central zone, Alberta under 10,000 active cases

The Central zone sits at 849 active cases, with 52 people in hospital and 10 in the ICU.

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced 16 additional deaths Thursday. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
No easing of Alberta’s COVID-19 measures Thursday, 678 new COVID-19 cases

The province also hit 1,500 COVID-19 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic

Dean Olsen Missing Poster
Blackfalds RCMP seek public assistance to locate missing male

Dean Olsen was last seen on Jan. 20 in Red Deer County

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said the Canadian government should consider sanctions on the U.S. if they refuse to reconsider the decision to cancel the Keystone XL Pipeline. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Keystone XL officially cancelled, Kenney vows to fight on

U.S. President Joe Biden cancelled the presidential permit for the pipeline on first day of office

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said province’s test positivity rate for COVID-19 is steadily declining. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
669 new COVID-19 cases in Alberta, 21 additional deaths

COVID-19 test positivity rate down to 4.5 per cent

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, updates media on the COVID-19 situation in Edmonton, Friday, March 20, 2020. Hinshaw says residents in long-term care and supportive living facilities will remain the priority as the province grapples with a looming slowdown in COVID-19 vaccine supply. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta long-term care residents remain priority in looming slowdown of COVID vaccine

There are 119 patients in intensive care and 1,463 people have died

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey prepares to speak at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. A mythical, ape-like creature that has captured the imagination of adventurers for decades has now become the target of Rep. Justin Humphrey. Humphrey, a Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season, He says issuing a state hunting license and tag could help boost tourism. (Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
Oklahoma lawmaker proposes ‘Bigfoot’ hunting season

A Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season

FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2017, file photo, Larry King attends the 45th International Emmy Awards at the New York Hilton, in New York. Former CNN talk show host King has been hospitalized with COVID-19 for more than a week, the news channel reported Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. CNN reported the 87-year-old King contracted the coronavirus and was undergoing treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP, File)
Larry King, broadcasting giant for half-century, dies at 87

King conducted an estimated 50,000 on-air interviews

Black Press File Photo
Maskwacis RCMP lay charges for attempted murder, kidnapping, and flight from police

Female victim remains in hospital in serious condition.

In this Dec. 18, 2020 photo, pipes to be used for the Keystone XL pipeline are stored in a field near Dorchester, Neb.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Chris Machian /Omaha World-Herald via AP
‘Gut punch’: Alberta Premier Jason Kenney blasts Biden on revoked Keystone XL permit

Kenney said he was upset the U.S. wouldn’t consult with Canada first before acting

Joe Biden, then the U.S. vice-president, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau take their seats at the start of the First Ministers and National Indigenous Leaders meeting in Ottawa, Friday, Dec. 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau, Biden to talk today as death of Keystone XL reverberates in Canada

President Joe Biden opposed the Keystone XL expansion as vice-president under Barack Obama

Prince Edward Island’s provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, Friday July 3, 2020. A lozenge plant in Prince Edward Island has laid off 30 workers, citing an “almost non-existent” cold and cough season amid COVID-19 restrictions. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
‘Almost non-existent’ cold and cough season: P.E.I. lozenge plant lays off 30 workers

The apparent drop in winter colds across the country seems to have weakened demand for medicine and natural remedies

Gov. Gen. Julie Payette takes the royal salute from the Guard of Honour as she makes her way deliver the the throne speech, Wednesday, September 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
Gov. Gen. Julie Payette resigns, apologizes for ‘tensions’ at Rideau Hall

Payette, who is the Queen’s representative in Canada, has been the governor general since 2017

Grounded WestJet Boeing 737 Max aircraft are shown at the airline’s facilities in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, May 7, 2019. WestJet will operate the first commercial Boeing 737 Max flight in Canada today since the aircraft was grounded in 2019 following two deadly crashes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Passengers unfazed as WestJet returns Boeing 737 Max to service on Calgary flight

After a lengthy review process, Transport Canada cleared the plane to return to Canadian airspace

Most Read