Dec 7, 2020
Justin Trudeau December 7 COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave remarks on COVID-19 on December 7. Read the full transcript of his press briefing speech here.
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Justin Trudeau: (00:00)
Good morning, everyone. [foreign language 00:00:05]. This morning I have important news to share on vaccines. From day one of this crisis, our government’s top priority has been protecting people around the country. Since March we’ve procured billions of pieces of PPE and secured millions of rapid tests, which we have sent to the provinces and territories to get to the front lines. We’ve also provided tens of billions of dollars to the provinces and territories for healthcare, essential workers and school safety. We’re using every tool in the toolbox to keep people safe and get Canada through the storm. It’s been a difficult year and we’re not out of the crisis yet, but now vaccines are coming. [ foreign language 00:01:03].
Justin Trudeau: (01:47)
We are facing the largest immunization in the history of our country. This is no small task, which is why we have a clear plan. Our government, through the National Operations Center has been working with the provinces and territories to ensure that we’re ready to roll out vaccine doses as soon as they are approved and delivered. On procurement of these vaccines, Minister Anand and her team have been working tirelessly to secure the most diverse portfolio of vaccines in the world and today, we see those efforts paying off. Canada has secured an agreement with Pfizer to begin early delivery of doses of their vaccine candidate. We are now contracted to receive up to 249,000 of our initial doses of Pfizer BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine in the month of December. Pending Health Canada approval, the first shipment of doses is tracking for delivery next week.
Justin Trudeau: (02:57)
Shipments will continue to arrive into 2021 with millions of doses on the way. This will move us forward on our whole timeline of vaccine rollout and is a positive development in getting Canadians protected as soon as possible. Pfizer, the public health agency and the provinces are working together to finalize preparations at the first 14 vaccination sites this week. I want to assure Canadians that any vaccine approved in Canada will be safe and effective. The regulatory process is ongoing and experts are working around the clock. They will uphold Canada’s globally recognized gold standard for medical approvals. [foreign language 00:03: 45].
Justin Trudeau: (04:58)
While vaccines are on the horizon, remember they cannot protect you if you get COVID-19 now. I know this winter will be hard, especially with the holidays fast approaching, but we’re coming into the final miles of this crisis, so let’s all buckle down and do what’s necessary to keep ourselves and others safe. Over the last few days, we’ve seen new records of COVID-19 cases in a number of provinces. Hospitalizations are rising, families are losing people and our most vulnerable are at risk. Just because we’re getting closer to vaccines doesn’t mean we can afford to become complacent. And on the other hand, just because the numbers are spiking doesn’t mean we should give up in despair. Let’s keep working together and let’s remember that together we will get through this. [foreign language 00:06: 39].
Justin Trudeau: (07:12)
This morning, I also want to recognize that 50 years ago today, the report by the Royal Commission on the status of women in Canada was tabled in parliament. When it was published, this report was a landmark document, helping drive progress on gender quality. 50 years later we’ve come a long way. But with this pandemic impacting women disproportionately, we’re reminded that there is still much further to go. One of the most significant recommendations of the Royal Commission was to take action on childcare. Today, we are committed to moving forward with a universal childcare system. Our government will continue to take the steps needed to be build and rebuild a fairer, more equal Canada for everyone. Today, I also, I want to recognize the news that national chief Perry Belgard will not be running for another term.
Justin Trudeau: (08:12)
Perry has been a tireless leader and advocate for First Nations and I know I am joined by people across the country in recognizing and celebrating his years of devoted service to First Nations communities. We lift you up Perry. We will continue to work with the national chief to advance the priorities identified by First Nations, including keeping First Nations communities safe from this pandemic. [foreign language 00:08:42]. Anita.
Thank you, Prime Minister and thank you also for mentioning the important report on the Royal Commission on the status of women, such an important milestone for us to remember. [foreign language 00:09: 29]. From the outset of this pandemic, my Department of Public Services and Procurement Canada has worked tirelessly to ensure that Canadian frontline healthcare workers have the vital PPE necessary to do their jobs. The provinces and territories have access to the testing supplies and rapid test kits that they require, and that all Canadians have access to safe and effective vaccines. We have ensured that Canadians have access to the supplies and vaccines needed in a hyper competitive global marketplace marked by uncertainty, volatile supply chains and shortages of raw materials. It is because of this reality that we continue to pursue an aggressive procurement strategy with a diverse portfolio of suppliers, whether in the area of PPE or vaccines. On PPE, we have procured more than two and a half billion items of PPE, we’ve received …
A half billion items of PPE. We’ve received more than 1.25 billion articles of PPE to date. To be clear, this inventory includes Canada’s complete order of more than 20 million liters of hand sanitizer, 90% of the face shields and gowns that we have ordered, and more than 84,000,095 respirators. Millions of made in Canada N95s will continue to arrive for at least a decade. Our unrelenting approach to procurement is also why deliveries of vaccine doses will begin this year instead of next, pending regulatory approval. With up to 249,000 Pfizer doses coming this month, we are ensuring that Canada is well-placed to undertake the largest mass vaccination operation in Canadian history. Thank you also to General Fortin, for joining our team in this regard.
Throughout 2021, I want to assure you that millions and millions of vaccines will continually flow into this country, once they are approved by Health Canada. That has been our procurement strategy from day one.
[foreign language 00:01:35].
Our goal continues to be, to ensure that Canada has the vaccines, logistics systems and supplies in place to further combat COVID- 19. And we will not rest until we climb this mountain. [foreign language 00:02:15] Thank you so much.
Speaker 1: (13:11)
Thank you, Minister. We’ll now turn to the phone for questions. One question, one follow-up operator. Operator?
Thank you. [foreign language 00:13:23] First question. Dylan Robertson, Winnipeg Free Press. Line open.
Dylan Robertson: (13:25)
Good morning, Prime Minister. Are you intending to divvy out the initial Pfizer doses on a per capita basis to provinces? And is there going to be a separate quota for First Nations on reserve or any other indigenous group?
Prime Minister: (13:41)
[foreign language 00:02:51] The immunization and vaccination advisory board filled with scientists and experts have made determinations around the most vulnerable populations that need to receive vaccinations in a priority basis. And that is guiding our efforts and our decisions on rolling out vaccines. We recognize the challenges around logistics of the Pfizer vaccine, have been working closely with Northern premiers and indigenous groups. We’ve identified 14 sites across the country where we will be able to immediately start delivering those Pfizer doses because they require 80 below temperatures. So it is not easy to roll them out to more remote locations, but this process will allow us to stand up our processes for delivering and handling this first vaccine as quickly as possible. There will be more doses of other vaccines at later dates on a priority basis for indigenous peoples, particularly those who are northern and remote.
Prime Minister: (15:05)
[foreign language 00: 04:12]
Follow up, Dylan?
Dylan Robertson: (15:45)
And Prime Minister, Manitoba has the highest proportion of indigenous people. And Premier Brian Pallister said that if you give the vaccine to provinces on a proportionate basis, but then make them prioritize indigenous people, that all other Manitobans would be waiting the longest out of all Canadians for a vaccine. To you is that a racist comment?
Prime Minister: (16:13)
Our work is to make sure that all Canadians get vaccines as quickly as possible. And with the contracts we’ve signed, with the news we’re announcing today, we’re well on our way to do that. In terms of distribution, I think all of us understand that getting vaccines first to the most vulnerable people is exactly what we need to do, and that’s what we’re focused on.
Speaker 1: (16:37)
Next question, operator.
Thank you. [foreign language 00: 05:45].
Speaker 2: (17:08)
[foreign language 00:05:48].
Prime Minister: (17:15)
[foreign language 00:06:03].
Speaker 3: (17:21)
[foreign language 00:06:42].
[foreign language 00:07: 06].
Speaker 2: (17:31)
[foreign language 00:07:08]
Prime Minister: (17:34)
[foreign language 00:07:28]
Speaker 1: (17:35)
Thank you. Operator, next question.
Thank you. [foreign language 00:07: 55]. Next question. Steve Scheer, Reuters. Line open.
Steve Scheer: (18:59)
Hello, Prime Minister. I wanted to go back and ask a little bit about what Dylan Robertson was asking about before. Can you confirm that First Nations isolated communities in the north will have priority access to the vaccine, say before than the general public in places like Ottawa?
Prime Minister: (19:20)
We have worked very closely with the premiers in the Northern Territories, as well as indigenous leaders across the country. We know that they are a priority population and therefore will be part of those initial 3 million doses we’re expecting in the beginning of 2021. Those are expected to be a combination of Pfizer and Moderna doses. The Pfizer vaccine, because it is required to be stored at 80 below, has more significant logistical challenges, which is why we are setting up initially, 14 distribution centers in large urban areas, but they will be added with more over the coming weeks, perhaps Major-General Fortin can speak to the logistical distribution, including as we get out to further areas.
Major-General Fortin: (20:16)
[foreign language 00:09:18] I would simply add that the territories have indicated a preference to other vaccine candidates because of the complexity associated with distributing the Pfizer vaccine. We’re very much paying attention to the priorities and making those vaccines available as rapidly as possible, once they’re approved. In terms of distribution of the Pfizer vaccine, as mentioned earlier, the 14 sites are to be ready by next week. Preparations are well underway. Once we’re comfortable with that process, we’ll expand deliberately into other areas, in close coordination with provinces and territories. [ foreign language 00:10:00].
Follow up, Steve?
Steve Scheer: (22:02)
Yes, prime minister-
Speaker 4: (22:03)
… follow up, Steve.
Yes, Prime Minster. Last week, you had said that there would be further guidance as to what the priority groups would be, the people who would first be getting the vaccine. And I guess my question is will the provinces then the expected to follow those guidelines in the same way that essentially the federal government sets them? Do you expect the provinces to then follow the federal guidelines when they implement the vaccinations?
Prime Minister: (22:29)
We’ve set out, through the recommendations of the expert group on vaccine prioritizations, clear guidelines, and it’ll be up to the provinces to adjust and implement them in a way that is suitable for their populations.
Speaker 5: (22:46)
[foreign language 00:00: 53].
Prime Minister: (23:01)
[foreign language 00:01:07], or Howard?
Major-General Fortin: (23:28)
[foreign language 00: 01:28]. Certainly, so far, I’m okay. Yes, I would simply say that it’s a matter of a day or two, as my understanding. Based on the fact that once you receive the product, you have to unpack, thaw, decant, mix. That’s a relatively fast process for the health professionals.
Dr. Njoo: (24:20)
[inaudible 00:24:20] at the point that when you look at the actual vaccination of Canadians, it’s a very close, obviously, integration between the public health aspects and the logistical aspects. So, as Major General Fortin pointed out, the delivery then the decanting and all the mixing and so on, all those technical details, has to also then line up with what, from a public health perspective, is the practical aspects in terms of looking at the priority populations that need to be vaccinated and depending on the number of doses, and when they come, how that’s actually going to be operationalized in terms of actually, as you say, getting the doses into people.
Dr. Njoo: (24:54)
The other point also that we’re looking at it from a public health perspective is that not all the doses are going to arrive all at one time. It’s going to be a regular stream. And so, that’s part of the planning process in terms of public health priority populations. What’s also practical, what can we do in the early days? And maybe, it might be a focus on urban centers or places where it’s more, I think, amenable to having those vaccinations take place. And then, as we get more and more doses, we’ll be able to offer it to more and more Canadians. Thank you.
Prime Minister: (25:23)
Minister Anita Anand: (25:25)
Thank you, Prime Minister. I just want to bring it back to our contract with Pfizer. There are a number of stages that need to be walked through before the deliveries occur. Of course, I want to stress the importance of approval from our independent regulator at Health Canada. After that, there is the window, of course, for shipments to occur. But before those shipments occur, Pfizer needs to be assured that the provinces and territories are ready, in fact, to receive those doses.
Minister Anita Anand: (26:06)
And it’s important to know that that’s the work that Major General Dany Fortin is doing with the Public Health Agency of Canada in conjunction with the provinces and territories. Once we are assured of provincial and territorial readiness to receive, then we will be able to pass the baton to the provinces and territories. The last kilometer, in fact, is with the provincial and territorial jurisdictions, and we will carry the baton as far as we can along that line. Thank you.
[inaudible 00:26:45] McGregor, CD News. Prime Minister, a few weeks ago, you came out and said that Canadians are going to have to be prepared to watch citizens in other countries get the vaccine first. Then, I think it was last week, you said it didn’t matter when we get to the start line. What matters is when we get to the finish line. Now, today, you’re pulling a rabbit out of the hat and saying, “Hey, we’re going to have vaccines in December.” Did you instruct Minister Anand to go out and negotiate this deal to get a comparatively small number of vaccine doses, because you were concerned about the political optics of seeing other countries getting vaccinated first?
Prime Minister: (27:17)
We’ve been working on assigning contracts that are flexible enough to get us the earliest possible doses of vaccines since this past summer. This was always an intention that we had, to try and get vaccines to Canadians as quickly as possible, along with our imperative of securing the largest number of doses for Canadians possible from the largest range of potential vaccine producers. When we made a commitment to Canadians that we were going to do everything we could to give them the support and the path through this, we were serious about that.
Prime Minister: (27:53)
We know that there is a tremendous amount of uncertainty in terms of which vaccines were going to arrive first, which ones we’re going to be able to be manufactured quickly. These were always built into our process as possibilities. But until we were able to sit down here today and announce firm delivery, pending the final approval by Health Canada, we wanted not to get people’s hopes up because this is something that Canadians have been looking forward to for a long time, getting to these vaccines and getting beyond that.
Prime Minister: (28:29)
But I will say from a logistical and delivery standpoint, this is the largest mobilization of vaccines in Canada’s history. And being able to start with a smaller number and rapidly scale up as the flow of vaccine doses starts increasing quite rapidly, this is a good thing to allow the folks on the ground to be able to deliver certainly this Pfizer vaccine, which has a high degree of complexity in the delivery. [foreign language 00:07:02].
Speaker 6: (30:20)
Mr. Prime Minister, [inaudible 00:08:24], Canadian Press. You say we’re getting 249,000 doses by the end of the month. Can you spell out, in as much detail as possible, who are going to get those doses?
Prime Minister: (30:34)
The contract we’ve recently amended with Pfizer allows for them, they pledge or they engage to deliver up to 249,000 doses to Canada before the end of December. In terms of distribution, next week’s distribution will happen through 14 different sites that have been identified across the country, one in each province and two in our four largest provinces. This is to be able to initially get doses out to the most vulnerable people, but also to demonstrate and to operationalize what is going to be an incredibly complex mobilization of vaccines across the country.
Prime Minister: (31:29)
It is a gradual process that is going to begin next week. But let us remember, at the beginning, there will be smaller amounts of vaccines because we are both standing up our delivery mechanisms, but also because manufacturers are limited in what they’re able to produce for this vaccine, the large mass manufacturings will be happening into 2021, but with these 249,000 doses coming in December, we will be able to begin on the most vulnerable populations and make sure that we have the logistical grounding and foundation in place to be able to deliver right across the country over the first months of 2021. Any further additions to that? Anita?
Minister Anita Anand: (32:23)
I would just add to those very accurate remarks that we are utilizing our negotiating position, a very strong position, with vaccine suppliers. Each and every day, we are in touch with these suppliers in order to ensure that Canadians are in the best possible stead. In those negotiations, we are continuing to press for the earliest possible delivery dates once Health Canada approval has been obtained. And that is why we were able to secure the agreement with Pfizer announced today.
Minister Anita Anand: (33:03)
… We were able to secure the agreement with Pfizer announced today, and that is why we will continue to work with our suppliers for the earliest possible delivery dates for Canadians. Thank you.
Speaker 7: (33:15)
I would like to just clarify your answers previously to my other colleagues before I ask. Is it per capita then for this first 250,000 doses, or is it based on a province’s share of the most vulnerable people you want to target, or is it based on the province’s readiness to receive vaccines? If it’s based on readiness to receive vaccines, can you talk a bit about what are the conditions that you need to see in those provinces? Because if things go wrong, who’s then liable? Have you allowed the companies to waive liability, for example? Are you wearing the liability? Could you speak a bit about that please?
Prime Minister: (33:54)
The decision on distribution to provinces and territories, it was agreed is going to be done on a per capita basis. For the further complexities, I will turn to the doctor and the major general. Dr. Njoo?
Dr. Njoo: (34:09)
Okay. Maybe I’ll start. So, yes, we’ve been having active discussions with our public health counterparts in the provinces, territories for quite some time, and they’re ongoing. So as I mentioned earlier, we have received the advice from the National Advisory Committee on immunization. And so, everyone’s aware of the four priority groups: indigenous communities, healthcare workers, older Canadians greater than 80 years of age starting off, and then moving down to younger Canadians. Then, of course, individuals in long-term care facilities.
Dr. Njoo: (34:41)
But as we receive the vaccines, the other consideration we’re discussing, and Maj.-Gen. Fortin can speak to it, are the logistical aspects as well as the epidemiology in each of the provinces and territories. Every province and territory might have a slightly different experience. And so, how they receive the vaccines and prioritize and actually deliver those initial doses to their populations, I think, certainly will be based on their own experience and what they determine is best for their individual context. I think I’ll leave it at that and pass it on to Maj.-Gen. Fortin.
Speaker 8: (35:11)
Speaker 9: (35:11)
The mic [inaudible 00:35:17].
Dr. Njoo: (35:11)
I’ll turn to Dr. [inaudible 00:35:12] for that.
Minister Anita Anand: (35:18)
You can call me Dr. [inaudible 00:02:26]. Listen, I think we have to be very clear that every Canadian who wants access to a vaccine is going to have access to a vaccine. And that vaccine is actually provided free of charge from the federal government.
Minister Anita Anand: (35:40)
In terms of liability issues, it’s really important to remember that in our contracts, we specifically implemented clauses that ensured that the vaccines would not be distributed unless they were approved by our gold standard regulator at Health Canada. That has been the very important point that I continue to mention perhaps ad nauseam, because it is the way in which we as a country here proceed based on science, based on the best advice of the scientists before we have this rollout.
Minister Anita Anand: (36:23)
And so, in terms of liability, we are able to hedge, therefore, that liability by relying on the excellent judgment of the scientists at Health Canada.
Major-General Fortin: (36:38)
[inaudible 00:36:40]. In terms of logistics, we’re on daily coordination with provinces and territories. And with the 14 initial sites, we’re closely monitoring their level of readiness. We have agreed on the condition criteria with the provinces. The provinces are really on track to have all those sites ready. We’re exercising a dry run this week.
Major-General Fortin: (37:06)
Boxes are in the air right now. They left Belgium and they’re on their way to the next transit node in the cold chain. They’re being monitored. So we will learn. This is one way this week where we will learn how the process will flow, if adjustments need to be made. Pfizer will learn just as much as we will, because they will make some of the necessary adjustments. Next week, as indicated earlier, 14 sites ready, we’re confident at all levels that we’re going to get there, with some adjustments as we go over the course of the weekend next week, no doubt. But we’re confident that we’re in a good position to start. We’ll have a good visibility on those conditions. The training is underway starting tomorrow. Then from there, we’ll expand in terms of numbers and expand that scale.
Prime Minister: (38:01)
On the question of liability, I think the most important thing to remember is these vaccines don’t get approved unless they are safe for Canadians. Health Canada has one of the most rigorous approval processes in the world, and we are deeply watching other countries go through their processes. But Health Canada will make its own internal process decisions based on what is safe for Canadians. If Health Canada approves these vaccines, then we will begin to deliver these safe vaccines to Canadians across the country.
Prime Minister: (38:43)
In regards to the contract signed, there was questions of liability, and Canada has undertaken the necessary measures to ensure that everyone is protected through that. Great. [French 00:05: 59].
Ashley Burke: (39:11)
Ashley Burke, CBC News. Good morning. Can you just clarify? Out of the 249,000, will that be 249,000 people who receive the vaccine or will that be about half that amount of people who get the shot, but they’ll get two doses?
Ashley Burke: (40:25)
My question is I understand the government has a diverse portfolio when it comes to vaccines. There has been more option for Moderna, knowing that it might be easier to transport around the country, especially to remote communities or northern communities. Moderna’s never created a vaccine before, it’s ever scaled up to this size before. How much confidence do you have in Moderna to do that?
Prime Minister: (40:48)
First of all, we will continue to work with all vaccine manufacturers on their delivering of supplies. Yes, there is significant unknowns in terms of manufacturing capacity for various vaccines. They have never been made at this scale before, at this speed before.
Prime Minister: (41:11)
That’s why, first of all, the regulatory process needs to be as rigorous as it always is. There are no corners cut by Health Canada in terms of approving a vaccine for safe use by Canadians.
Prime Minister: (41:29)
On top of that, we know that in building a new vaccine, there would be challenges that certain companies would encounter that others might find an easier time with, which was why we set out to build the most diverse portfolio of vaccines in the world and we ensured more than enough doses for Canadians through all those different vaccine contracts, to make sure that if one company does face greater logistical or manufacturing or health approval challenges than others, we have other contracts that will ensure that Canadians stand the best chance possible of getting vaccinated and getting through this COVID-19 pandemic as quickly as possible.
Prime Minister: (42:28)
The Pfizer vaccine is a two-dose vaccine with a few weeks apart. Part of the challenge of the logistical delivery is to see whether those doses can be properly stored and delivered a few weeks later to the same people. That’s what Pfizer as a company is looking for.
Prime Minister: (42:51)
You can imagine that any responsible company like Pfizer is going to want to make sure that none of their vaccines are going to be wasted through inability to properly store, transport, or administer every single dose of those vaccines, are extraordinarily precious right now. So they will be looking very, very closely at our ability to do that. So those 249,000 doses to be delivered in December, the vast majority of them, if not all of them, will be two doses for a single individual.
Speaker 10: (43:33)
Thank you, and that concludes today’s press conference.
Prime Minister: (43:35)
Thank you. Merci. The conference has now …