Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Kildonan—St. Paul.
The hon. member for St. Paul's has put forth a motion concerning the H1N1 flu pandemic. This motion comes in three parts. The first part asks for the maximum possible support from the federal government in handling the H1N1 flu pandemic. I am pleased to say that this objective has been achieved, and more.
Second, it has requested that $400 million be reserved for pandemic preparedness. So far, we have spent over $1 billion for pandemic planning. This has helped us plan and prepare for this pandemic and the onslaught of the second wave.
However, what I disagree with is the partisan politics the opposition continues to play, to the detriment of all Canadians. These partisan politics are harmful in two ways. First, they are adding to the confusion that has been reported through the media and needlessly worrying Canadians. This confusion is dangerous and counteractive to the objectives of the expert medical advice given to us.
Second, it is using a motion regarding the H1N1 pandemic to stop the government from conducting its regular business. Our economic action plan is solid and has enabled our country to weather the recession far better than other countries.
I want to take a moment to offer my sincere appreciation and gratitude to the many Canadians patiently working through this pandemic virus outbreak with us and to the front-line workers who are working tirelessly to vaccinate as many Canadians as fast as possible.
Canadians, their governments, medical experts and health workers alike know that H1N1 is a preventable disease. That is why we are turning out in unprecedented numbers for the vaccine.
Together we are spreading the word about taking real concrete action instead of spreading myth and confusion. We are demonstrating a sense of social responsibility that is simply unparalleled in the history of public health in this country. As the vaccine campaigns continue into December, we believe all of our efforts will pay off.
All of this work deserves to be supported and built upon, not overlooked and criticized. We are all in this together and we need to continue our co-operation.
This government and our provincial and territorial counterparts have been making real concrete and tangible efforts to protect the health of Canadians. Ensuring timely access to a safe and effective vaccine for every Canadian who needs and wants to be immunized has been a cornerstone of the Canadian pandemic influenza plan for the health sector.
I want to set the record straight about the responsible, well thought out and entirely appropriate decisions the Government of Canada has taken on this file. Vaccines protect Canadians from becoming infected and helps prevent the spread of disease in our communities and, not surprisingly for the H1N1 flu outbreak, vaccines are a critical part of our public health response.
Canada's regulatory authorities have long recognized the unique challenges that would be posed by an influenza pandemic resulting from a completely novel strain virus like H1N1. New vaccines typically take years to be authorized, but in an influenza pandemic of the sort we are currently experiencing where infection has spread rapidly around the world in a few short months, standard vaccine development and regulatory processes are simply not viable.
In 2007, Health Canada began working with the WHO, the USFDA and others to establish a type of safety data that would be required to allow for the eventual approval of a vaccine in the event a pandemic was declared. Advance planning has meant we were able to move quickly on vaccines.
As soon as the WHO identified the novel H1N1 influenza strain, our process and expectations were clearly laid out for our manufacturer. Any potential roadblocks or ambiguity about the process forward had been cleared.
As many are aware, Canada's H1N1 vaccine supplier is GlaxoSmithKline. All provinces and territories in Canada agreed there was a strong public health rationale for securing a domestic vaccine production capacity in Canada. This reduced the risk of having to scramble for supplies at the last minute, compete with other countries or face the risk of products being stuck at border crossings. All governments had that foresight.
Just a few years ago, few countries and very few people were interested in influenza. The manufacturing capacity was much lower and there were not necessarily the options open to us today. Adjuvants, for example, were not an option until we saw an H5N1 emerge, prompting further influenza vaccine research and development.
Our domestic manufacturer actually has an adjuvant to offer, while others do not have similar new technology. This is one reason why, following a competitive tendering process, GSK was the successful bidder. At the time, Canada's public health community applauded this forward-looking, pro-active decision.
Because we had a guaranteed supplier able to meet all of our vaccine requirements, we could make an informed decision regarding our vaccine order. GSK's manufacturing facility and processes had already been assessed by our regulator. The company knew in advance what safety data requirements it had to meet for its H1N1 vaccine to be approved. As a result of this, we knew there would be no regulatory delays in getting vaccines to Canadians.
In short, for opposition members who have been quick to criticize and use this pandemic shamefully for partisan needs, I say this. To date, more than six million doses of adjuvanted H1N1 flu vaccine have been delivered to the provinces and territories. That is currently more H1N1 flu vaccine per capita than any other country in the world.
Let me be clear. All decisions that have involved the purchase, medical advice and roll out of the vaccine have been done in agreement with the provinces and territories. This government has also worked closely with first nations and the provinces to ensure that vaccination was a key component of the overall strategy to fight the H1N1 influenza.
We have ordered enough H1N1 flu vaccine for every Canadian from coast to coast to coast who needs and wants to be immunized. No one will be left behind, and, yes, the H1N1 flu vaccine, a safe and effective vaccine, will be available to Canadians in a timely way.
Looking back to June of this year, I am reminded about what our Chief Public Health Officer said. He said that if all went well, the vaccine would be ready by the end of October. He said that the goal would be to get enough vaccine for all Canadians by Christmas.
Four months later, the reality is we had the vaccine ready by the end of October, and our goal is still to get enough vaccine out to Canadians by Christmas.
We have not cut corners on safety. We have acted in a responsible and deliberate way that balances the need to ensure a safe and effective vaccine is available with the need to stay ahead of any outbreak.
This is a tough balancing act, but we believe we have the balance right.
Since the new virus surfaced in April, we have made hundreds of difficult decisions, all guided by the best available science and expert advice. We have informed Canadians about these decisions every step of the way. We have been upfront with everyone about the global challenges we are dealing with in this worldwide pandemic.
Last week witnessed the beginning of the largest mass immunization campaign in Canadian history. Because we knew it would be impossible to vaccinate everyone at one time, the Government of Canada, in co-operation with the provinces and territories, jointly determined sequencing guidelines for the distribution of the H1N1 flu vaccine. This was done to ensure that vaccine programs could target priority groups first, allowing those who needed the vaccine most to get it first.
I want to assure the House that the Government of Canada, along with the provinces and territories, have been working diligently to distribute and administer the H1N1 flu vaccine as quickly, safely and broadly as we possibly can. The Government of Canada has been in constant contact with GSK and the provinces and territories and is sharing information with the provinces and territories on each week's supply.
Canada's supply is secure. The contract with GSK is to produce enough vaccine to meet Canadians' needs first. There has been constant communication, both at the working level and at the senior management level, to share information on vaccine availability in each jurisdiction.
Again, I want to express my gratitude and appreciation to the many health care workers working at clinics. These are very challenging and unique circumstances they are working under. Jurisdictions are giving more vaccine per day than they ever have given in history.
Together, all governments are ensuring Canadians will be able to have access to our number one defence in this pandemic, and that is the H1N1 vaccine.