Vaccines and the fight against COVID-19

Vaccines have finally arrived and inoculations began world – wide in early December 2020 as the death toll from COVID-19 nears 2.4 million people.

Some say it couldn’t come soon enough.

From New York City to Brazil to Mexico to Canada – the World Health Organization says that everyone in the world will have access to the vaccines. Including third world countries where the fight to survive is a daily struggle.

But how is the roll out going so far in Canada?

“We are still very much on track as promised to get those six million doses by the end of March,” says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The federal government says they have secured ten doses for each Canadian from seven different companies producing vaccines – with the goal of having every Canadian vaccinated by September 2021.

But so far out of the seven companies – Pfizer and Maderna vaccines are the only two to get approval in Canada.

However, there have been delays and production shortages hampering their efforts to stay on schedule.

Critics like federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says that it isn’t going as planned adding that Canada has now fallen to 20th place in getting doses to its citizens.

“One of the biggest failures though is not having the ability to make the vaccine in Canada,” says Singh. “If we don’t produce it locally we will always be at the whim and mercy of other countries that produce the vaccine whether they ship it to us or not and delays might happen and that’s what we are up against right now, said Singh adding the federal government should have been better prepared.

“Justin Trudeau could have done this a year ago we are going to continue to fight to produce the vaccine here and get everyone in our country vaccinated.”

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COVID-19, from the front lines to the far right

Despite the delays and shortages, the vaccine is rolling out across Canada.

In the north the territories say they are on track for having 75 per cent of the population vaccinated by spring.

On Vancouver Island, B.C., the Cowichan Tribe has received 600 vaccinations for their vulnerable members as they continue to deal with COVID-19 cases

“When I saw the cars lined up and i was overwhelmed with tears knowing that our community and our elders are going to be safe,” said Marnie Elliott – the Health Director for the Cowichan Tribe.

Despite some people getting vaccinated – there have been challenges and miscommunications.

The Nuxalk Nation has 2,000 members and is located in Northwest B.C. – Health Director Kirsten Milton says her community was at first looking forward to getting some of their vulnerable members vaccinated.

However, Milton says that mood soon changed when Vancouver Coastal Health spoke with her community leadership and said the doses were a gift.

“In the terms that were used that was very inappropriate to state that public health was being gifted to our people and gifted to our Nation that was just an alarming concern for me because public health should not be labelled as a gift for anybody,” said Milton from her office in Bella Coola, B.C.

Initially they were given 180 doses – however an additional 350 doses also arrived which they were not expecting.

They were told to provide a roll out plan by the next morning and they did but Vancouver Coastal Health rescinded the additional vaccines anyway.

This is what Kirsten Milton says they were told.

“The gift would now be leaving because our plan wasn’t in place!”

In a statement to APTN News, Vancouver Coastal Health says they have apologized to the community and will work harder on reconciliation with the community – however they did not explain why they took back the additional doses.

Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside has seen numerous outbreaks so pop up vaccine clinics have been set up for anybody who wants to go in and get vaccinated.

We met with Marilyn Baker who just got her vaccine shot and she wants to encourage others not to be scared.

“What do you have to lose? What do you got to lose? Nothing right? We take a chance everyday we go out,” says Baker.

Another possible hurdle during this pandemic are the variants from COVID-19.

It’s not unusual that viruses mutate – but three variants are a concern – although they don’t seem to be making people any sicker – they are more contagious.

As of Feb. 18, 2021, there are about 670 cases of all three variants in Canada.

Studies have shown the vaccines should be effective against these variants – but more research needs to be done says experts like B.C. Deputy Chief Health Officer Reka Gustafson.

We asked her this question:

With many provinces saying getting the second dose is on hold indefinitely – are we protected with only a single dose of the vaccine?

“We may actually benefit the population more by giving more first doses to some people rather then second doses to a fewer number of people and that’s because you get very strong short -term protection from a single dose,” she explained.

However, she does not recommend getting two different shots from two different vaccine companies.

Back on the frontlines as the second wave continues – Julia Pavlova says it’s still going to be a challenge for a long time.

“We have no cure we have no medications anti-biotics don’t work against viral viruses and this is a virus infection so we are kind of fighting a sometimes losing battle where we can only support a person with supportive treatments like oxygen, fluids, but we cannot give them an immune system that’s the main factor is a strong immune system to fight off the invading virus,” says Pavlova