As the government says any Canadian who wants a coronavirus vaccine by September will be able to access one, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland is stopping short of telling Canadians they can plan for a return to normal at the end of the year.
“This is a sneaky, sneaky virus and we all have to be aware of that,” Freeland cautioned after taking a long pause in response to being asked if Canadians can expect things to reopen at the end of 2021.
“Having said that, I think it’s also extremely important for us to see that there is light at the end of the tunnel… There is light at the end of the tunnel, but it is a long tunnel.”
Canada’s vaccine rollout is slated to provide at least one vaccine dose to every Canadian who wants one by September, according to the timeline that the federal government has repeatedly provided.
While she was pressed specifically on whether Canadians should plan for a return to some semblance of normality in October or November, Freeland would not provide any concrete timeline – though she did specify that the vaccinations are a key piece when it comes to a return to normal.
“I think it is absolutely the case that vaccines are critical,” Freeland said
“It will make it possible for us to reopen our economy fully and all get back to work.”
However, bumps in the vaccine rollout to date have led to questions about the reliability of the government’s vaccination timeline. A Pfizer decision to scale up its European manufacturing facility recently impacted its vaccine production, leading to Canada receiving zero doses this week.
While Pfizer has committed that it will still meet its Q1 target of delivering four million doses to Canada before the end of March, the hiccup in the vaccination rollout has led to concerns from opposition MPs. Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole voiced his concerns on Monday, claiming in a press release that “the Pfizer vaccine delivery is now in jeopardy.”
However, Freeland said that even as Canada hits snags in the vaccine rollout, the government has given itself a safety net that gives her confidence in the current vaccination timeline.
“Canadians should have confidence when the prime minister says that all Canadians who want to will be vaccinated by the end of September,” Freeland said.
“That commitment to Canadians is based on a diverse and extensive vaccine portfolio that has a lot of insurance policies built into it, and it is based on the fact that we really are not resting on our laurels when it comes to vaccines. We are working on this every single day.”
When pressed further on what this timeline means for changes in the daily lives of Canadians towards the end of the year, Freeland was less firm – though she noted that the vaccine will help Canada to reopen its economy.
“I am very confident that as the vaccination rolls out, we are going to start reaping economic benefits across the country as well,” Freeland said.
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