Thank you very much, Mr. Chair and honourable members.
Thank you for this opportunity to speak to you about the Government of Canada's COVID-19 vaccination strategy.
It's been just over one year since the first case of COVID-19 was detected in Canada. The intervening months have been extremely challenging. Canadians have experienced hardship, anxiety and heartbreaking losses. To say that it has been difficult is indeed an understatement.
But there is reason for hope. In less than a year, vaccines have been developed and authorized. Canadians are receiving them right now, and every single vaccination brings us closer to a safer, healthier and more prosperous future.
I would like to begin by providing an update on vaccine distribution. As you know, both the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines have been authorized for use in Canada and are now being distributed across the country. So far, we have secured a total of 80 million doses of these two vaccines. Of these, more than 1.1 million doses have been delivered to the provinces and territories. This means that more than 860,000 people have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
Although the delays recently announced by Pfizer and Moderna will have a short-term impact on vaccine rollout, we are still on track to receive the full six million doses from Pfizer and Moderna by the end of the first quarter. Starting in April, the pace will accelerate, with at least 20 million doses delivered between April and June. It is during this time that the mass vaccination campaigns will really begin to ramp up around the country. We are working with the provinces, territories and indigenous partners to prepare for this next phase. Most importantly, we expect to have enough vaccine for every Canadian by the end of September 2021, even if no other vaccine is authorized for use in Canada.
In the meantime, while supplies are limited, vaccines are being distributed strategically to the groups who need them most.
While the provinces and territories are responsible for the distribution of vaccines within their jurisdictions, their decision-making is informed by the recommendations of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization.
Last fall, the committee recommended who should be vaccinated first, given limited initial supplies of vaccines, and this includes residents and staff of congregate living settings that provide care for seniors; adults 70 years of age and older, starting with those 80 years of age and over; health care workers; and adults in indigenous communities where infection can have disproportionate consequences.
Given these guidelines, I'm pleased to say that there has already been notable progress in the territories. In Nunavut, more than 11% of the population has received at least one dose of Moderna. In the Northwest Territories and the Yukon, more than 21% and 9% of their respective populations have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
This month, the national advisory committee will be updating its guidance on the prioritization of initial doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, and this updated guidance will help inform stages two and three of the vaccine rollout as vaccine supplies increase.
In the meantime, we expect additional vaccines to be authorized. Health Canada is now reviewing vaccine submissions from AstraZeneca, Janssen, Verity Pharmaceuticals and Novavax. Should these vaccines be found to meet Health Canada's strict standards for safety, efficacy and quality, they would be authorized and included in upcoming vaccination campaigns.
Vaccine development is a long and highly complex process. In normal times, it can take years to carry out the extensive research needed to produce a safe and effective product. Vaccine reviews normally take place after all clinical studies are completed and the full results are available, but of course these aren't normal times. We're fighting a global pandemic, and many thousands of human lives hang in the balance. With this in mind, we have put into place measures to safely expedite vaccine authorization.
Health Canada is the regulator responsible for this process. We recognize the need for flexibility to expedite it, given the urgency of the COVID-19 pandemic, but we can't compromise on safety, quality and efficacy. That's why last fall I signed the interim order respecting the importation, sale and advertising of drugs for use in relation to COVID-19. This interim order allows us to accept rolling submissions for COVID-19 drugs and vaccines.
What that means is that manufacturers can submit data as it becomes available. These requirements are comparable to those established by other major regulators, such the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the European Medicines Agency, and the World Health Organization. It was through this expedited process that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were authorized. Health Canada is using the same process to review subsequent submissions for COVID-19 vaccines.
Once an authorized vaccine is in use, Canada continues to monitor its safety through its well-established post-market surveillance system. This system collects safety data from various domestic and international sources, including mandatory reporting by manufacturers, which allows Health Canada and public health authorities to respond quickly to changing trends or unusual adverse events.
This system was enhanced through the interim order, which provides the authority to impose terms and conditions on any authorization or establishment licence at any time. This includes a post-market safety and effectiveness system with risk mitigation measures, and additional assessments of safety information, as requested by Health Canada. Of course, Health Canada will not hesitate to take action if safety concerns are identified.
The Government of Canada is working closely with provinces, territories, indigenous and public health partners to ensure the timely rollout of the vaccines as they're authorized by Health Canada. Our vaccine strategy is being led by the national operations centre. This centre was created by the Public Health Agency of Canada and is supported by the Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of National Defence.
At the same time, the national emergency strategic stockpile of the Public Health Agency is making sure we have the supplies we need for a smooth rollout, and this includes millions of needles, syringes and alcohol swabs, as well as freezers for vaccine storage all across the country.
With vaccination now under way and measures in place to ensure a reliable supply of vaccines, we can look ahead to a future free of COVID-19.
The Government of Canada is doing everything it can to reach that future as soon as possible. We're taking steps to authorize safe and effective vaccines quickly. We're protecting our most vulnerable citizens first, and we're working with all partners to ensure that everyone who wants a vaccine can get access to a vaccine.
At the same time, the Government of Canada continues to invest in research. The Canadian Institutes of Health Research is addressing many issues related to COVID-19, from the development of vaccines and therapeutics to the variants of the virus, including their impact on the effectiveness of vaccines.
In the meantime, we cannot let our guard down. We must continue what we've been doing—staying physically distant, washing our hands, wearing a mask.
We owe it to our seniors. We owe it to our neighbours with high-risk conditions. We owe it to our health care providers and essential workers.
We must stay vigilant as we wait for our turn to get vaccinated. That day is coming soon. When it does, I want Canadians to be proud of how they worked together to overcome this unprecedented health crisis.