VIDEO: B.C. planning for the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in the first weeks of 2021

FILE - This May 4, 2020, file photo provided by the University of Maryland School of Medicine, shows the first patient enrolled in Pfizer's COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine clinical trial at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.  Pfizer announced Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020, more results in its ongoing coronavirus vaccine study that suggest the shots are 95% effective a month after the first dose. (Courtesy of University of Maryland School of Medicine via AP, File)
This October 2020 photo provided by Pfizer shows part of a “freezer farm,” a football field-sized facility for storing finished COVID-19 vaccines, under construction in Kalamazoo, Mich. Pfizer’s experimental vaccine requires ultracold storage, at about -70°C, so as they are made, the vaccines are being stored in special freezers until the Food and Drug Administration approves use and the vaccines can be distributed. (Jeremy Davidson/Pfizer via AP)This October 2020 photo provided by Pfizer shows part of a “freezer farm,” a football field-sized facility for storing finished COVID-19 vaccines, under construction in Kalamazoo, Mich. Pfizer’s experimental vaccine requires ultracold storage, at about -70°C, so as they are made, the vaccines are being stored in special freezers until the Food and Drug Administration approves use and the vaccines can be distributed. (Jeremy Davidson/Pfizer via AP)

There may be light at the end of the pandemic tunnel for B.C., even as the province deals with a surge in cases and an increase in deaths due to the virus.

“We expect, and what we’re planning for, is the first week of January, week one of 2021 to be ready to deliver the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines,” provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Wednesday (Nov. 25).

The two COVID-19 vaccines that look most ready to be deployed come the new year are made by Pfizer and Moderna, and both use messenger RNA (mRNA) technology. Preliminary data shows that both vaccines are at least 90 per cent effective, but both come with challenges.

Pfizer’s vaccine needs to be stored at -70 C, while Moderna’s needs a temperature around -20 C. The federal government is working on procuring 126 freezers, including 26 ultracold ones, to hold millions of doses of vaccines. Pfizer’s vaccine has been sent to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory committee for emergency approval on Dec. 10.

Here in B.C., Henry said that the vaccines will first need to be approve by Health Canada before the province can get its hands on them.

“Our job is to make sure we’re… ready, as soon as the vaccine is ready, to get it to the people who need that protection here,” she said.

Henry said that Dr. Ross Brown of Vancouver Coastal Health will join the group working to organize the logistics.

The question of who will get the vaccine first relies on Canada’s ethical framework, which prioritizes people at high-risk, health-care workers and other essential employees.

“We will not have enough vaccine in the first few weeks to months of the vaccine program to give vaccination to all of those people in those priority groups. So where do start?” she said, acknowledging the difficulties that will come with outsourcing vaccine production. Canada does not have the manufacturing capacity to make the COVID-19 vaccines in-house.

READ MORE: Canada’s inability to manufacture vaccines in-house will delay distribution, says Trudeau

READ MORE: B.C. records deadliest day of pandemic with 13 deaths, 738 new COVID-19 cases


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katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

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