Remarks from the Chief Public Health Officer on COVID-19, September 1, 2020


Today I'd like to talk about our ongoing efforts for the development of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines for Canada. First, I'll begin with the usual numbers update.

There have been 128,948 cases of COVID-19 in Canada, including 9,126 deaths. 89% of people have now recovered. Over the past week close to 46,000 people were tested daily, with 0.9% of people testing positive. An average of just over 470 new cases have been reported daily during the most recent seven days.

Keeping COVID-19 under control requires constant vigilance and tireless efforts, not just by public health, but by all of us. So far, those efforts appear to be paying off, as we have planked the curve of the epidemic, and the rate of infection in Canada is what I call “on a slow burn”.  Clearly, we can't afford to give this virus an inch, as it will take any opportunity for a comeback, as we have seen elsewhere.

What we are living through now, is in some ways like what generations before us experienced.  In the 1940s, 50s and 60s, communities would ban public gatherings and close schools, and the sick would be quarantined due to outbreaks of polio and measles.  Most of us are lucky; we have not had to live through these types of measures because of safe and effective vaccines for these diseases.

As we have seen with COVID-19, prevention measures such as practicing physical distancing, hand washing and using face masks when in public can help reduce the spread of the virus, but they cannot and have not reduced the spread of the virus to a point where Canadians can resume life as normal.  What Canada, and the world, needs to have the best shot at normalcy, is a safe and effective vaccine.

The vaccine research and development process in usual times takes more than a decade before they are approved for use for Canadians. Canada, and the world, cannot wait 10 years for a COVID-19 vaccine. By the same token, we cannot, and will not, compromise safety and efficacy.

The development and approval of a COVID-19 vaccine for Canadians will build on the existing strengths and experience of Canada's vaccine research and safety review process. The vaccine will be tested extensively among thousands of volunteers.  It will meet high standards of safety and efficacy before it is approved for use in Canada.

Thanks to decades of research in vaccine development, and advances in technology over the last 20 years, organizations in Canada and around the world are able to expedite the vaccine development process. In order to do that without compromising safety, Health Canada will dedicate additional scientists to assist with the review and approval process, and the COVID-19 vaccine, or vaccines, have been given top priority at the Public Health Agency of Canada.  We are committed to working collaboratively with our international partners in reviewing the safety and efficacy of the vaccines.

A key component of the vaccine process is Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunizations, or NACI.  For over 50 years, NACI has safeguarded the health of Canadians by reviewing the research and data on vaccines in Canada, and making recommendations on the use of vaccines across Canada. NACI is composed of health professionals, scientists and researchers who review the research and ensure that the highest standards of safety and efficacy are met.

In the end, the ultimate success of a COVID-19 vaccine in Canada will depend on individual Canadians rolling up their sleeves to get immunized. Widespread vaccine uptake is the best shot Canadians have at regaining some of what we've lost and returning to things we cherish….things like holding our family and friends closely, having community events, and living our lives without the fear of contracting the disease.

Thank you.

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