Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, for the invitation to return to committee.
As you mentioned, I'm joined today by officials from Health Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada, CFIA and CIHR. We are here to update you on the main estimates for the health portfolio.
We know, as we continue to respond to COVID-19, that some areas in Canada have seen an increase in cases, some areas in Canada have had to apply additional public health measures and some areas in Canada have seen increased hospitalizations. We remain focused on one goal, and that's to help Canadians through COVID-19—to help provinces and territories reduce transmission in communities, to decrease the number of people getting sick, and of course to decrease the number of people ending up in hospitals and, sadly, passing away as a result of COVID-19.
We know that this is a lot of work on behalf of all levels of government, and indeed not just government but community organizations, unions, employers and everyone working together in a team Canada approach. The most important things for us to remain focused on now are to reduce community transmission, increase access to vaccination and make sure that we stay focused on increasing vaccine uptake. We need to make sure the vaccines are available to people in a variety of different ways so that they can access them when it's their turn.
I have to say that we've been so impressed by Canadians' desire to be vaccinated and their willingness to step up when it is indeed their turn. As we can see, as more vaccines have been arriving in Canada week over week, we are now a leading G20 country, the second in the G20 in terms of administering the first dose. That's good news, Mr. Chair, because we know that vaccinations save lives and reduce the spread in communities, along with the other things that we know all too well.
In terms of actual hard numbers, that means nearly 13 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered. I have good news, and it's reflected in case rates and death rates. Eighty per cent of those aged 70 to 79 and 86% of those aged 80 and over have received vaccination. I can tell you that there is a sense of relief, especially among people in those age groups who have felt so worried and so scared, and of course among the people who love them, that they are protected as provinces and territories work together to reduce transmission in communities.
Of course, as all of you in HESA know, Canada is focused on a population health approach to vaccination. What does that mean? It means using vaccination as a powerful tool to reduce cases in communities and to stop people from getting sick and dying.
We have two overarching goals: to stop the spread and to save lives. Because of this strategy, there are more Canadians protected now than a month ago. We are looking forward to a very busy month of May. This month alone, millions of doses will arrive in the country and go directly into arms through the strong partnership with provinces, territories, local public health officials and other really important partners like pharmacists and family physicians.
While vaccination programs are scaling up, we have to continue to be cautious and vigilant about following local public health guidance. That does mean the things that we know help prevent the spread of the virus. As we have learned, that means physical distancing; the wearing of masks, especially in crowded and indoor settings; being mindful of how and where people gather; really thinking of each other during this time; and continuing to pull together as Canadians to make sure that the entire community remains safe. If there's something I've learned, Mr. Chair—or been reminded of, I think is more appropriate—it's the importance of collective action to fight a virus like this. It's that we cannot do this alone, that communities can't do this alone, that people can't do this alone, but that together we can actually get a lot further.
Today we will share the health portfolio's spending plans for the months ahead.
As you know, budget 2021 proposes significant investments in a number of health priorities, from increasing research and biomanufacturing to improving long-term care and continuing our investments—significant investments, I would say—in mental health and substance use supports.
These investments will help us finish the fight against COVID-19 and will help Canadians to see, in a healthier and more equitable way, a healthier future in their communities.
Maintaining Canadians' health and safety continues to be my priority—indeed, all of our agencies' priority—in the months to come. The main estimates I'm presenting today reflect this, and they outline the work we are doing to achieve these goals.
Over the next year, Health Canada will work with the provinces and territories to help improve health systems for all Canadians. This work includes measures to strengthen the health care sector through investments in long-term care and supportive care settings. We will also address mental health and problematic substance use through continued investments in home and community care and in mental health and addiction services, including specific investments to help Canadians during COVID-19.
I want to give a particular thank you to the many organizations that work with people who are struggling with a variety of mental health issues and a variety of problematic substance use issues. These community organizations and providers have been there for Canadians during this dreadful time, and their work is tremendously valuable to all of us.
Our world-class regulators will continue their work to get Canadians the medicines, vaccines and medical devices they need. That work includes creating a critical drug reserve to assist with COVID-19 treatments.
For the past year, the Public Health Agency of Canada has been focused on the pandemic response. Whether it's on vaccines, on research or on specific COVID-19 supports, the agency has been working day and night—all of the folks in the agency have been working day and night—to protect Canadians. This work will continue well beyond the pandemic.
The safety of our food supply is also always a priority in a pandemic, and of course beyond. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency protects Canadians from food safety risks, supports our food supply chain and safeguards the health and safety of people working in the food manufacturing and distribution industries. I want to thank all of the workers at CFIA for their ongoing work, oftentimes in very challenging situations, as we know. In meat packing plants, where there have been significant challenges to prevent the spread of COVID, I know that inspection agents and many other professionals have been working to make those workplaces safer and to keep food safe for Canadians.
After a year of living with COVID-19, the importance of investing in health and medical research, if it wasn't evident before, is now, Mr. Chair. The Canadian Institutes of Health Research is supporting Canadian research and researchers, and our investments will make sure that they have a strong and central role in ensuring that science returns to a place of prominence in government policy-making.
I am so relieved, Mr. Chair, that our government made those investments in 2015, after a decade of attack on scientists and researchers. We made those investments in 2015, and they turned out to be critical. We're going to continue to strengthen Canadian research through the CIHR, through the researcher community that they support, to make sure that we have access to the best evidence and the best science on a range of health issues.
Mr. Chair, my priority is Canadians' health and safety. As we face this wave of the virus, as we see the finish line, we know there's more work to do. The plans I'm talking about show what we have to do, how we have to invest and how we have to continue to pull together. I know that Canadians will get through this, but we have to work together to get through it so that we can save lives, stop the spread and protect Canadians' health throughout COVID-19 and beyond.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. I look forward to your questions.