By Jenna Cocullo, Local Journalism Initiative
Chatham-Kent’s top doc wants to reassure residents that there is no reason to fear the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine despite the speed at which it was developed.
On Thursday, the United Kingdom officially approved the Pfizer vaccine which will be distributed to its residents shortly. Canada followed suit, announcing on Monday it will dole out its first batch of Pfizer vaccines next week.
“The notion that vaccines are not safe is really not a genuine worry in most instances,” said Dr. David Colby.
Colby said one vaccine, Moderna’s, was developed in 48 hours.
“And all of the rest of the time has been taken up by these rigorous testing protocols that are very robust. So I don’t think that people should be hesitant at all about having the vaccines as soon as they are approved,” he said.
Colby said the vaccine testing program is a multiphase “rigorous” program. Phase 1 tests immune responses and in Phase 2 it is given to volunteers for a comprehensive safety study that ensures the vaccine is safe for individuals to take. Phase 3 determines whether the vaccine works to decrease the risk of disease.
“But the safety data collection not only continues on in Phase 3 to get a lot higher numbers and more robust data but it continues after the vaccine has been approved. There is a very robust adverse effects reporting system in both Canada and the United States,” he said.
Colby did say he would like to have received the vaccine sooner rather than later.
It is still unclear at this point how distribution will happen and if local health units will get any say in the priorities. Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, has suggested that local needs do need to be taken into account when coming up with a distribution plan.
“But I think everybody agrees that the people who are at the highest risk of mortality if they get COVID-19 should be first in line. And then we start thinking about people that have the greatest potential to actually spread it,” Colby said.
He added hospital staff would be a very high priority, especially after looking at what happened at University Hospital, London, where 124 cases, infecting both staff and patients, were reported. Nine patients reportedly died from the outbreak.
“Whether this is going to be dictated at a provincial level with a policy across Ontario, or whether there’s going to be local discretion … those principles will be adhered to because they just make sense.”