Feds plan to provide Canadians with tools to fight coronavirus vaccine misinformation

WATCH: What is a realistic timeline for getting the COVID-19 vaccination

The Public Health Agency of Canada plans to roll out webinars for health-care workers in an effort to combat increasing misinformation surrounding the impending novel coronavirus vaccine.

Speaking to reporters at the 2020 Canadian Immunization Conference on Wednesday, Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said the webinars will include a broad range of topics, including Health Canada regulatory perspectives, the different types of vaccines that will be available to Canadians, how to run immunization clinics as well as guidance for use from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization.

“Because of the social media and its Internet age, we’ve got even more of a challenge on our hands than anyone else in tackling pandemics of the past,” said Tam, adding that it was important Canadians understood how vaccines are developed.

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“The regulatory process is rigorous and (the federal government) would only provide vaccines that have gone through safety evaluations and efficacy evaluations.”

An Ipsos poll conducted exclusively for Global News found a majority of Canadians surveyed, 59 per cent, said they would still support for mandatory COVID-19 vaccines — but more than 70 per cent said they would feel nervous taking a vaccine that went through such quick development.

Tam said the webinars will seek to dispel some of those fears, and explain how scientists were able to compress years worth of vaccine research into what she described as an “incredible global collaboration that has resulted in vaccines being available essentially within the year of the start of a pandemic.”

The top health official did not explicitly say when the webinars would be rolling out, but said to “expect the first webinars to be delivered very shortly.”

Tam’s announcement comes as Health Canada reviews multiple vaccine candidates, including Pfizer and BioNtech’s, which became the world’s first vaccine to receive approval after it was authorized by British health officials earlier on Wednesday.

The federal government has so far secured a minimum of 20 million doses from Pfizer and BioNtech, with the option to secure millions more if they’re approved.

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According to Tam, Canadians can expect to see the first shipments of the vaccine roll out early next year, adding that front-line workers, high-risk groups like seniors and those in more isolated Indigenous communities will be considered for prioritization.

“As we roll out a vaccine, we have to take into account who is most at risk — at risk of exposure of severe outcomes and ensuring that these populations have priority access,” she said.

“Vaccine developers in phase three clinical trials are including some of these key populations.”

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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