What is being done to ensure Canadian Blood Services employees get priority access to the vaccine?
We want to offer assurances that we are working to see that frontline employees are given appropriate recognition as priority individuals to access the vaccines in all jurisdictions.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) advises all levels of government and establishes priority access. The NACI has provided preliminary guidance that “essential services” will have prioritized access to COVID-19 vaccine in Stage Two. Included in that group are donors and those who support blood and plasma donation.
There are now two Health Canada-approved vaccines for COVID-19 (BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna). Supplies are currently limited, and provinces/territories are developing prioritization strategies based on the recommendations from the NACI.
Our CEO has written and spoken with deputy ministers across the country to advocate for our frontline employees having priority access to the vaccines, followed by other employees.
Our discussions with governments will also include consideration around how to approach both donors and volunteers, given how important they are to the blood system.
As you have seen in the news the delivery of vaccines in Canada has been slow in comparison to other countries. Provinces are also not likely to take a uniform approach in their vaccination efforts which could be problematic.
We are looking into all options to secure access for our employees in a timely manner. This includes the organization, rather than provincial public health managing the distribution and delivery of vaccines to our workforce.
More details will be shared as they are available.
Will it be mandatory for Canadian Blood Services employees to get the vaccine?
Although we cannot mandate staff to get the vaccine, we do strongly encourage it.
Widespread immunization presents the best option to protect people from COVID-19 and, overtime, to lift the restrictions in place to keep people safe and healthy. Until extensive immunization is achieved, public health measures will continue to be essential to minimize the spread of COVID-19 in Canada and save lives.
In order for immunization to protect individuals and potentially have an impact on stopping the spread of COVID-19, enough Canadians need to choose to take the vaccine.
What will be the impact on donors once a vaccine is available? Will there be a deferral period?
In anticipation of the administration of vaccines, the Donor Selection Criteria Manual (DSCM) working group has conducted a review of the approved vaccines for COVID-19 (BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna) as well as those under development and have determined these will not impact donation eligibility (no deferral required).
It is still unknown if there may be side effects with the vaccines which may impact donors such that they may not feel well enough to donate.
The DSCM working group is also monitoring how other countries are managing donor deferrals, such as the EU and US (FDA).
Are we advocating for volunteers to receive priority access to the vaccine?
Canadian Blood Services is in ongoing discussion with provinces and territories to coordinate consistent access to the COVID-19 vaccine for our staff across the country, according to public health guidance for priority groups in Canada.
Our discussions with governments also include consideration around the approach for both donors and volunteers, given how important they are to the blood system.
We will continue to advocate with the provinces and territories that all employees, volunteers and active donors be provided consistent access to the COVID-19 vaccine across the country.
When will stage two start?
It is still difficult to know when Stage two will start. Timelines will vary by province as we are seeing with the Phase one rollout.
The Prime Minister has affirmed recently that "we are on track to have every Canadian who wants a vaccine receive one by September"
As soon as we have more information on when our employees will be able to access the vaccine it will be shared.
Will our safety measures/PPE change with the rollout of the vaccine?
Based on recent National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) guidance, there is insufficient evidence on the duration of the protection of COVID-19 vaccines and the effectiveness of the vaccine in preventing asymptomatic infection and reducing transmission of SARS-COV-2.
In general, the current COVID mitigation strategies including all safety measures we’ve introduced in our environments (distancing, masks etc.) will remain in place even among vaccinated persons until guidance from public health authorities directs otherwise.
Safety is our highest priority and we will continue to align with the recommendations from the Public Health Agency of Canada.