A man walks past a COVID-19 alert sign in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside in March. Canada's chief public health officer says she won't cut corners to get a vaccine candidate for COVID-19 approved. (Jonathan Hayward/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Tam says Canada won’t ‘cut corners’ to develop COVID vaccine

Canada’s chief public health officer says she won’t cut corners to get a vaccine candidate for COVID-19 approved.

Dr. Theresa Tam made the comment at a media briefing in Ottawa on Tuesday following an announcment earlier in the day by Russia that it had become the first country in the world to grant regulatory approval to a coronavirus vaccine, after less than two months of human testing.

Sidestepping a question about the Russian vaccine, Tam said Canada uses ‘solid’ processes to ensure the quality and safety of its vaccines, adding that she has full confidence in Health Canada’s process to approve a vaccine.

Tam, who said last week the virus had taught Canadians “some hard lessons” and that there was no “silver bullet” that would bring a swift end to the pandemic, said she is “cautiously optimistic” that will happen soon but said safety will not be compromised to get there.

“Getting this done in record time is no easy feat, as we must ensure any vaccine demonstrates the highest standard of safety and effectiveness,” she said.

Her deputy, Dr. Howard Njoo, said there is little information available about how effective the Russian vaccine has been, as well as any side effects it had for the people it was tested on and how many people were involved in the trials. 

The ultrastructural morphology exhibited by the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), which was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China–miniscule in size but enormous in so many other ways.(Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAM/CDC/)

One of the only indicators, he said, is the amount of time that passed between the discovery of the vaccine and the decision to approve it.

“It seems quite short, based on what we know about how normally vaccine trials go,” Njoo said.

Vaccine development normally takes years, if not decades. But scientific teams around the world are aiming to develop a COVID-19 vaccine in 12 to 18 months.

The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 4 a.m. on Aug. 12, 2020: There are 120,421 confirmed cases in Canada. — Quebec: 60,718 confirmed (including 5,697 deaths, 53,135 resolved) — Ontario: 40,194 confirmed (including 2,786 deaths, 36,456 resolved) — Alberta: 11,772 confirmed (including 216 deaths, 10,552 resolved) — British Columbia: 4,111 confirmed (including 195 deaths, 3,444 resolved) — Saskatchewan: 1,479 confirmed (including 20 deaths, 1,294 resolved) — Nova Scotia: 1,071 confirmed (including 64 deaths, 1,007 resolved) — Manitoba: 547 confirmed (including 8 deaths, 360 resolved), 15 presumptive — Newfoundland and Labrador: 268 confirmed (including 3 deaths, 263 resolved) — New Brunswick: 177 confirmed (including 2 deaths, 168 resolved) — Prince Edward Island: 36 confirmed (including 36 resolved) — Yukon: 15 confirmed (including 13 resolved) — Repatriated Canadians: 13 confirmed (including 13 resolved) — Northwest Territories: 5 confirmed (including 5 resolved) — Nunavut: No confirmed cases — Total: 120,421 (15 presumptive, 120,406 confirmed including 8,987 deaths, 106,746 resolved) (The Canadian Press)

Last week, Canada’s federal government signed deals with the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and biotechnology firm Moderna to secure millions of doses of potential COVID-19 vaccines. 

Pfizer will supply its BNT162 mRNA-based vaccine candidate, while Moderna will provide its mRNA-1273 vaccine candidate.

The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Canada surpassed the 120,000 mark Tuesday, with 8,987 deaths attributed to the disease.

Tam said almost nine in 10 patients have already recovered.

With files from CBC News, RCI, The Canadian Press

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