question period — Health

COVID -19 Vaccine Rollout

April 30, 2021


Hon. Donald Neil Plett (Leader of the Opposition)
[12:53]

Honourable senators, my next question is addressed to Senator Gold and concerns an issue I have raised numerous times already this year, and that is the four-month delay between doses of the two-shot COVID-19 vaccines.

It was reported on Wednesday that a hospital in Montreal is facing an outbreak of COVID-19 amongst at least 14 members of its emergency room staff. Most of these doctors, nurses and clerks had received their first vaccine dose but not their second. As well, a critical care doctor in Toronto stated on social media that they are seeing patients admitted to the ICU with COVID-19 well after their first vaccine shot and before their second.

Leader, there are real consequences for delaying the second shot far beyond what the manufacturers advise. If your government is so confident about its vaccine supply, why do we still have a four-month delay between doses?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate)
[12:54]

Senator, thank you for your question. All our thoughts go to those who are suffering from COVID and the front-line workers who regularly put themselves in harm’s way.

The decision and advice that the Government of Canada has been given from its professionals and from scientists, as well as the advice the provinces are being given from their professionals, is that, on balance, extending the period between the first and second doses was the better and more appropriate response to ensuring that as many Canadians as possible receive a first dose so as to accelerate the process of flattening the curve and slowing the spread.

The introduction and presence of new variants have complicated the situation significantly. However, the government is still of the view that the advice it took and provided — I speak for the federal government, of course, but I think it would be the same for the provinces — was, on balance, the appropriate decision to take.

[12:55]

Leader, I’m sure the 14 members of the emergency room staff would disagree with the ill-gotten information upon which the federal government is obviously basing its decisions.

Leader, you and others in government keep saying that this delay is a provincial decision. Provinces are 100% dependent on the vaccines that the Trudeau government has obtained for them. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization has been crystal clear that its recommendation of a four-month delay was based on the poor vaccine supply and nothing else.

Leader, the four-month delay between doses is something no other country is practising. Do you recognize that this is a direct result of the Trudeau government’s vaccine procurement failure?

Senator Gold
[12:56]

The short answer is no. Thank you for your question. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization supported the delay of second doses by up to four months in order to maximize the number of people gaining some resistance. I have repeated on many occasions that Canada, despite the lack of a domestic manufacturing capacity, has done extraordinarily well and is ranking high amongst G-20 countries in terms of the number of vaccines already administered to Canadians.