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COVID-19 BC Update, Aug 4

Welcome back. All right, the idea of what we used to think of as a normal life seems out of reach in the middle of a pandemic. Even with a vaccine, Dr. Theresa Tam has warned it could take years before physical distancing and all those mask rules can be relaxed. But today a little hint of hope. Ottawa announced it has secured access
to millions of doses of experimental COVID-19 vaccines. So where does this put us in the race to find a vaccine and how far are we from returning to life as we once knew it. Joining me now epidemiologist Dr. Raywat Deonandan and infectious disease specialist Dr Isaac Bogoch. All right so let me start, Dr. Bogoch, with you. Pfizer, Moderna these are you know two of the companies involved in this deal with Ottawa. They both just started phase three clinical trials of their vaccines. So how significant is today's announcement? I think it's very significant. This certainly is a big step forward for
Canada. We know that these vaccines haven't completed their phase three clinical studies but if these vaccines are successful and they seem to work and they seem to be safe then Canada will have essentially dibs to get access to these vaccines and we know there's going to be essentially a global scramble to get access to these vaccines. And luckily Canada is really at the front of the line. So we'll have access to them if they are successful we'll be able to roll them out in the country. OK, so Dr. Deonandan, what then has to happen in order for a vaccine to be approved and then be made available to everyone? Well first of all, the phase three clinical trial data has to be compelling. As a colleague says, it can't turn people into lizards, right. So he has to be safe and then the data has to suggest that it actually does offer some protection against infection. And if Health Canada then deems that the data suggests that the benefits outweigh the risks then we move into distribution. Now we have a vaccine task force in Canada. It's unclear what their role is around this but I assume they're going to be part and parcel in deciding upon which vaccine candidate to adopt. The manufacturing distribution issues then come into play. Can we get enough of the doses and can we distribute them a scale across the country. OK distribution is interesting. So I guess we know with the H1N1 vaccine it was decided that priority would be given to various groups of peopl. Pregnant women, front line health care workers. What might the priority list look like when we have a COVID vaccine ready, Dr. Bogoch? Yeah well we have a national advisory committee on immunization and again we have a vaccine task force
as well and I suspect it's going to look for people that are one, at greatest risk for having a severe outcome from this infection and two, people at greatest risk in getting this infection as well so it'll likely be for those who are in long-term care facilities those in congregate settings, for example in homeless shelters people over the age of 60 frontline healthcare workers. Those are likely the populations that will have access to the vaccine first. And then we'll likely see general rollout throughout the rest of the country afterward. It's not going to be quick though. Another challenge, I guess, Dr. Deonandan and for healthcare health officials is can they convince Canadians to actually get it? This is the trillion dollar question. So when this pandemic began everyone was praying for the salvation of a vaccine. Who knew that when one was around the corner the big question would be would we accept the salvation of the vaccine? How do we convince people to accept it? So I'll be getting it if it's offered to me. I think i have faith in the process but the way we convince people is by rolling out our messaging campaigns and transparency is key. We have to be transparent about the safety profile. The possible side effects and so forth. So proving that it's safe is paramount and I think we have to start that process now by educating the public about the process by which the vaccines are manufactured and the science underlying their development. And reassuring people I suppose all the safety protocols have been taken. Exactly right. Do you think, either of you that it's possible for us to return to life as we knew it pre-pandemic, Dr Bogoch? Yeah I do, I really do. I think it's going to be a gradual process as the vaccine is rolled out throughout the country. But I think as that happens it will likely slide along that scale towards normalcy and then I think as we watch the vaccine roll out on a more global scale we'll see the slow return to life as we remember pre-COVID-19. OK, last word to you Dr. Deonandan. Yeah, I agree it'll probably take a year or two and I anticipate that in that year or two we will get the COVID vaccine at the same time we get the annual flu vaccine. It'll be part of our regular process but we'll be able to socialize and life will be back to normal so nobody panic. OK, always a good message both of you doctors thank you very much. Thank you anytime.