Politicians not prioritized for early COVID-19 vaccine doses

OTTAWA — Prime Minister and other political leaders of all levels will be waiting their turn to receive a COVID-19 vaccine like most other Canadians.

“We have really based our priorities on burden of illness, so people who have died most of the disease or have been most touched with complications, and frontline health-care workers, as well as Indigenous communities and remote communities. Political leaders are not part of these groups,” said Dr. Caroline Quach-Thanh, chair of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) in an interview on CTV’s Question Period.

This of course, is not unexpected, as the latest advice from NACI— the group of medical, pharmaceutical and public health experts who make recommendations to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) on vaccines and vaccine-related issues—was to narrow down its priority list due to the small number of initial doses expected.

Under the revised recommendations, the advisory committee has identified four specific groups as the ones who should be considered for early immunization.

  • Residents and staff of long-term care, assisted living, retirement homes, and chronic-care hospitals;
  • Individuals of advanced age (starting with 80 years and older and expanding by five-year increments to age 70 years as doses become available);
  • Health-care and personal support workers, considering exposure risk and direct contact with patients; and
  • Indigenous communities

In a separate interview on CTV’s Question Period, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh criticized the government for not securing more doses that could be ready in the initial rollout, which is right now estimated to be six million doses by March 31, which is enough to vaccinate three million people.

“The census shows that seniors that are over 70 years of age, there are more… then the three million that the doses will cover,” Singh said. “The first round should have secured more.”

Asked earlier this week whether he’d be looking to get one of the early doses, Trudeau said that he’s “going to trust the experts to make the right determination of what the priority populations are.”

Discussions are continuing with the provinces as to how many doses of the initial tranche each will have access to.

Dr. Quach-Thanh said that while her team is offering the recommendations for who should get access to the first doses, “it is very possible that in the end, logistically and based on local epidemiology, provinces might decide to tweak a bit within the priorities.”

She also said that NACI is not recommending the COVID-19 vaccine be mandatory, nor is it the government’s plan to force anyone to be immunized.

With files from CTV News’ Jackie Dunham

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