Environmental scan of provincial and territorial planning for COVID-19 vaccination programs in Canada

Public health departments in Canada are currently facing the challenging task of planning and implementing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccination programs. The objective of this study was to collect and synthesize information regarding COVID-19 vaccination program planning in each province and territory of Canada, including logistic considerations, priority groups, and vaccine safety and effectiveness monitoring.

Provincial/territorial public health leaders were interviewed via teleconference during the early planning stage of COVID-19 vaccination programs (August-October 2020) to collect information on the following topics: unique factors for COVID-19 vaccination, intention to adopt National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommendations, priority groups for early vaccination, and vaccine safety and effectiveness monitoring. Data were grouped according to common responses and descriptive analysis was performed.

Eighteen interviews occurred with 25 participants from 11 of 13 provinces/territories (P/Ts). Factors unique to COVID-19 vaccination included prioritizing groups for early vaccination (n=7), public perception of vaccines (n=6), and differing eligibility criteria (n=5). Almost all P/Ts (n=10) reported reliance on NACI recommendations. Long-term care residents (n=10) and healthcare workers (n=10) were most frequently prioritized for early vaccination, followed by people with chronic medical conditions (n=9) and seniors (n=8). Most P/Ts (n=9) are planning routine adverse event monitoring to assess vaccine safety. Evaluation of effectiveness was anticipated to occur within public health departments (n=3), by researchers (n=3), or based on national guidance (n=4).

Plans for COVID-19 vaccination programs in the P/Ts exhibit some similarities and are largely consistent with NACI guidelines, with some discrepancies. Further research is needed to evaluate COVID-19 vaccination programs once implemented.

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MacDonald SE, Sell H, Wilson S, Meyer S, Gagneur A, Assi S, Sadarangani M, members of the COVImm Study Team

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