As Canada begins receiving shipments of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination, Kootenay-Columbia MP Rob Morrison is calling for more federal government clarity over a national vaccination plan.
Morrison, a member of the Conservative opposition, said specific details from the federal government regarding distribution of the vaccine and determining who gets the vaccine first, are still unclear.
“They said they’re going to prioritize, but who? When?” asked Morrison. “That’s a far cry from 30-some million vaccines that may be required. I guess we’ve said for probably two months now — what is the plan?
The federal government has an initial order of 249,000 vaccinations from Pfizer-BioNTech, one of a few different pharmaceutical companies that have produced a COVID-19 vaccination. Canada has secured 76 million doses of the vaccine through an existing agreement with the company, however, timelines for the remaining deliveries is unclear in light of a global demand for the vaccination.
Additional challenges include transporting and storing the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccination, which must be kept at -70 degrees Celsius.
In total, the federal government has signed agreements with seven pharmaceutical companies that will provide up to 429 million vaccinations.
Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s top doctor, previously announced that 4,000 doses are coming to the province soon, with immunizations set to begin sometime this week.
While each province and territory will determine specific rollout vaccination locations and priority groups, Morrison said federal guidance on vaccine prioritization is still unclear.
“…We just want to see a plan so that people in different areas aren’t forgotten, like us, for example, in rural British Columbia,” Morrison said. The federal government is also responsible for providing vaccines to Indigenous First Nations.
The federal government also recently unveiled a fall economic update at the end of November, which included a commitment to investing up to $100 billion over the next three years to stimulate economic recovery.
However, specific details for those investments are sparse, according to Morrison.
“The vaccine is coming out, rapid testing is coming out, so now we should be focusing on economic recovery, and we’re just spending more money,” said Morrison.
He touted the federal government’s acquisition of rapid testing equipment, but lamented the lack of widespread use of that testing to open up domestic or international travel.
“Where’s the rapid testing?” Morrison asked. “I realize we want the vaccine that is coming out, but our economy is frail and I’d like to see a plan for rapid testing to be maybe international, so that people — when they come from abroad — are tested before they get here and how about at our point of entries, our border crossings like Kingsgate or Rykerts? How about those border crossings having that rapid testing, so if they test negative, they don’t need to quarantine?”
Morrison noted the fall economic update provided needed support and relief, singling out the live music and entertainment industry that has been particularly hard-hit, among many others, over the course of the pandemic.
“There’s some relief there, and I’m really glad to see that, but I think overall, just a little more planning,” Morrison said. “I’d like to see the government come out with a plan, rather than just spending.”
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