‘Critical tool’: Rempel Garner says Canadians need answers on coronavirus vaccine

Canadians need answers regarding how many doses of the novel coronavirus vaccines will be made available and when, the Conservative party health critic says.

Michelle Rempel Garner made the comments during an interview with The West Block’s Mercedes Stephenson airing on Sunday.

“We need to make sure that people understand when and where they can get this vaccine so that we can move forward and not just be seeing continued lockdowns,” she said.

READ MORE: Canada’s review of Pfizer coronavirus vaccine will be completed ‘soon,’ health minister says

She said even though the government says it has secured vaccine doses, Canadians “don’t know when they’re going to be delivered to Canada.”

Rempel Garner’s comments come two days after the Tories filed a motion pressing the government to answer multiple COVID-19 vaccine-related questions, including how they will be delivered, stored, and distributed as well as when each vaccine type will be deployed.

If the motion passes, the House will call upon the government to table its response to the questions by next Wednesday.

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Rempel Garner told Global News her party is seeking three things.

First, she said they are asking for “better public health information to be made available to public policy experts across the country on COVID.”

“Second, more widely available rapid and at-home testing so that we can isolate people more effectively so that we’re not just looking at a mass public lockdown as the only tool while we’re waiting for a vaccine,” she said.

Read more: Canada surpasses 400,000 coronavirus cases as infection rate accelerates

Third, Rempel Garner said her party is seeking a more “comprehensive plan for vaccine delivery … So that Canadians can understand exactly when this crisis is going to end,” she said.

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Earlier this week, the Conservative party came under fire after MP Derek Sloan sponsored an e-petition that alleged that by “bypassing proper safety protocols” COVID-19 vaccination is “effectively human experimentation.”

Asked whether her party’s position on the importance of COVID-19 vaccines has been undermined by Sloan’s decision, Rempel Garner said she was “not going to speak on behalf of Mr. Sloan.”

However, she said it is the position of the party that vaccines are “critical public health tools” that have “changed the course of human history in terms of eliminating different diseases.”

“We need to have this critical tool in Canada,” she said.

Read more: ‘Human experimentation’: Tory MP sponsors e-petition disputing assured coronavirus vaccine safety

She said the country has a “world-class regulator that makes sure that any sort of pharmaceutical product is safe.”

“We have to trust in that regulator, and we also have to understand that COVID is a significant threat to Canada, both from a health perspective and an economic perspective,” she said. “This is why our party has spent so much time over the last several weeks on things like rapid testing and vaccines.”

Asked if she believes Sloan should be removed from the Conservative Party caucus, Rempel Garner merely said her focus is on putting “enough pressure” on the Liberals to “move beyond party lines and get information on when we’re getting a vaccine.”

“That’s what I’m focused on,” she said.

What has the federal government said?

On Wednesday, Health Minister Patty Hajdu said that Canada’s review of the Pfizer vaccine candidate is “expected to be completed soon.”

“The news that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has been approved in the U.K. is encouraging,” she said “Health Canada’s review of this candidate is ongoing, and is expected to be completed soon.”

Read more: Negotiating contracts for coronavirus vaccines required flexibility, Anand says

Canada has signed contracts to secure more than 400 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, however, the federal government says only six million of those doses — enough to vaccinate three million people — will be in the country by early January for distribution once approved by Health Canada.

Earlier this month, Trudeau said the “majority” of Canadians could be vaccinated against the virus by September.

Read more: ‘No plan’ for economy will work without more access to COVID-19 tests, vaccines: O’Toole

In an interview with The Canadian Press, Procurement Minister Anita Anand said as soon as she knows when the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine will arrive in the country, she will share that information with Canadians.

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What’s more, on Friday, Trudeau said the Canadian armed forces are “already holding simulation tests” and “a series of exercises and run-throughs” to prepare for vaccine distribution.

“Freezers have been purchased and dry ice contracts for cold shipping are being put in place,” he said. “When vaccines get authorized and shipped, we’ll be ready.”

Health Canada has approved more than three dozen different tests for COVID-19, however, only six are “point of care” or rapid tests.

None are at-home testing kits, despite experts suggesting they are critical to battle the second wave of the pandemic.

–With files from Rachel Gilmore

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

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