Episode 48, Season 10
Sunday, October 10, 2021
Host: Mercedes Stephenson
Patti Hajdu, Minister of Health
Panel of Doctors:
Dr. Alex Wong
Dr. Paul Parks
Location: Ottawa, ON
Mercedes Stephenson: This week on The West Block: Prime Minister’s warning: If you want life to return to normal, get vaccinated.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: “The rules are very simple: to travel, you have to get vaccinated.”
Mercedes Stephenson: Ottawa prepares to impose vaccine mandates on air and rail travel, as well as public service, RCMP and military.
Theresa Tam, Chief Public Health Officer: “COVID-19 is unlikely to disappear completely, and bumps may continue to occur along the way.”
Mercedes Stephenson: And your COVID question, we’ll be talking to Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu about vaccines for children, booster shots, and families this Thanksgiving.
And the exhaustion, the frustration, the anger and the jealousy…
Dr. Alex Wong: “Everyone almost looks lost. It’s just too much that is left for anyone to give.”
Mercedes Stephenson: We go behind the scenes with two front-line doctors giving tough competition to Alberta and Saskatchewan.
October 10 is a Sunday and this is West Block.
Hello, I am Mercedes Stephenson. Thank you for joining us on your Thanksgiving long weekend.
As Canadians celebrate this Thanksgiving, the message from public health officials is: Enjoy the holiday with family and friends. But how you do this depends on where you live. In some provinces, there are limited restrictions as long as everyone is double vaccinated. But in New Brunswick, people are being told to limit their gatherings to single homes only. Living in Saskatchewan, there are no limits. Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam says that overall, Canada is in a better position this Thanksgiving than it was last year.
Theresa Tam, Chief Public Health Officer: “First, we’ve seen an increase in cases after these holiday events. So with vaccines this year, I think we should take better, more concrete steps. But we can’t, you know, when this formidable When it comes to the enemy, as I’ve said, the delta version.
Mercedes Stephenson: Joining me now is Health Minister Patty Hajdu. Minister, nice to see you, thank you for joining us.
We’re here again to talk about COVID, which I think a lot of us won’t be talking about over Thanksgiving weekend. But as long as it is an issue, we will continue to talk about it on this show. And as people are gathering for the Thanksgiving holiday, a lot of families are coming together and that also means a lot of kids. And one of the big questions we hear from the audience is this: are you hoping that vaccinations will be available to Canadian children and they will be vaccinated? And if so, what’s the timeline potentially looking at that?
Patti Hajdu, Minister of Health: It’s a really good question, and it’s a big sign that parents are eager to have a vaccine that’s safe and effective for use in their kids because, as you mentioned, they’re really in our communities. And of course, some kids get really sick. Luckily a lot doesn’t happen to them, but some get very, very sick and of course, they can transmit the virus to other people in their lives and their communities. We know that Pfizer has submitted some data to Health Canada regulators, but we expect the full package in the next week or two and then the regulators will do what they do, which is review all that data and evidence. , which potentially involves visiting something. To make sure they are confident in the safety data and efficacy data, and then when they are fully prepared to do so, they approve it for use in Canada. And like I said, this—we have the ability to accelerate these reviews because we’ve spent millions and millions of dollars to make sure that regulators have enough scientists and data analysts and researchers to do that—so that they can do this. to do it very quickly. But I’m certainly reluctant to give you an exact date, with the occasional back-and-forth with the corporation about missing pieces of data, etc.
Mercedes Stephenson: Certainly, and obviously when we’re talking about kids, people want all that information to know when they’re making decisions for their kids.
Booster shots are another topic that is getting more and more attention. We’re hearing from some of the big pharma companies that there are concerns about how long the shots last, so if you have two, you may need to get a third one. For example, in a country like Israel, they are now forcing everyone to get another booster shot. What do you expect Health Canada to be going to recommend and to what extent are you looking at it – booster shots not just for people who are immunocompromised and elderly but for all Canadians?
Patti Hajdu, Minister of Health: Well, I won’t tell what will happen to scientists in Canada, but I know they look at national and international data on immunity, transmission rates and efficacy from around the world. Obviously, this is something that the National Advisory Committee on Immunization will also consider. They are, in fact, the ones who have recently recommended the use of booster shots for immunocompromised people or people living in mass settings, and as the data becomes, you know, more clear I think, the world. Based on U.S. experience, then we could anticipate that the NACI, as well as Health Canada’s advice, could change from a regulatory perspective. In fact, as you know, companies are applying for the use of boosters in countries and this data will be very helpful for both the regulators and the advisory committee to make those decisions.
Mercedes Stephenson: Do we have enough supplies at this time so that every Canadian can be given a booster shot if this is the recommendation?
Patti Hajdu, Minister of Health: Well, we certainly have enough supplies, for Canadians who would need booster shots, in those circumstances everyone would need a booster shot. But again, we will closely follow the data and recommendations by regulators and advisory committees, and of course, these are provincial decisions at the end of the day. His advice will be given by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization. Regulators will, of course, regulate regarding product safety in the Canadian space. But at the end of the day, different provinces may have different approaches based on their medical advice. And all I can say is that if boosters should be needed for everyone, Canadians can be confident that we will have the supplies we need.
Mercedes StephensonAnd when it comes to where you can and can’t travel, that’s a big question for a lot of people who are snowbirds thinking of moving to the United States, or are finally looking to book a warm vacation somewhere. are expected to be able to , safely this year, as far as the vaccine mix is concerned. Right now, the United States will not recognize as fully immunized anyone who has had an AstraZeneca shot and then, say, the Moderna or Pfizer shot. We are expecting their rules on air travelers who may come to the country very soon. Have you talked to your counterpart in the United States about this? Will they recognize Canadians as fully vaccinated who have mixed vaccines, or could we potentially…