All four of the vaccines Canada has contracts for, as well as the AstraZeneca candidate, are also part of the United States Operation Warp Speed program, which aims to have a vaccine ready for use by the end of the year.

Health Canada’s approval process for any vaccine must still be followed, which will require proof a vaccine is both safe for use and effective at either preventing COVID-19 or reducing the severity of disease.

But Anand said the arrangements put in place with these companies mean if and when one of these vaccines is approved, Canadians will be among the first in line to get it.

The key word there is “choose,” with Health Minister Patty Hajdu ending speculation Monday Canada might force Canadians to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

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That is where enough people are immune to a disease that it cannot spread easily, so even people without immunity have low odds of catching it.

Hajdu added that Canada does not have the same level of skepticism towards vaccinations as is seen in some other places. Still, Canada’s vaccination rates fall below the stated national goals. The aim is for 80 per cent of seniors and high-risk adults to get the influenza vaccine each year. In 2018-19, 70 per cent of seniors and 43 per cent of high-risk adults between 18 and 64 were immunized against the flu.

In 2009, during the H1N1 flu pandemic, about two in five Canadians got vaccinated.

There are more than 160 COVID-19 vaccines in development around the world but only about two dozen are being tested on humans so far, including the four Canada is now in line to buy. Various vaccines use different technologies to try to train human immune systems to detect and fight off the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Anand said signing contracts for a number of different types of potential vaccines is critical because nobody knows which vaccine or vaccines will end up being approved. Pfizer and Moderna have started Phase 3 trials — most of the time there are only three phases of clinical testing, with the third phase being the biggest. Johnson & Johnson and Novavax are both in Phase 2 trials, which are conducted on smaller numbers of volunteers.

Monday’s announcement came just days after a collaboration between the National Research Council and Chinese vaccine-maker CanSino finally collapsed, taking that possible vaccine out of likely contention for use here.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was at the National Research Council’s Human Health Therapeutics Research Centre in Montreal Monday morning, which earlier this year was given $44 million to upgrade its facilities in part so it could produce the CanSino vaccine for Canadians if clinical trials proved it safe and effective.

This content was originally published here.