Kenora MP Eric Melillo is calling for an inquiry into the federal government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, as we head into another stay-at-home order and the pandemic continues to rage on.

“The Trudeau government’s failure to procure vaccines has had devastating impacts on lives and livelihoods,” Melillo said during a recent interview. “There’s a lot that we know could have been handled better during this pandemic.”

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole is also calling for a national inquiry. Last week, he called out Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s decision to enter into a deal with Chinese vaccine specialist CanSino Biologics, which fell through days after the announcement.

In May of 2020, shortly after the onset of the pandemic, Canada’s National Research Council signed a deal with CanSino to conduct Phase 1 and 2 clinical trials of their COVID-19 vaccine, with trials expected to take place at Dalhousie University’s Canadian Centre for Vaccinology.

The Ad5-nCoV vaccine was considered one of the world’s top COVID-19 vaccine candidates at the time and was developed with the help of the Chinese military. Ottawa committed $44 million towards the partnership, which was announced during one of Trudeau’s then-daily press briefings.

“Health Canada has approved the first Canadian clinical trials for a potential COVID-19 vaccine,” confirmed Trudeau on May 12, 2020. “If these vaccine trials are successful, we can produce and distribute it here at home.”

But by the end of May, the shipments that were supposed to be sent to researchers were blocked by China’s customs agency. With still no resolution on the issue by August, Canada’s research council decided the opportunity for the CanSino trials had passed and Canada entered into agreements with Pfizer and Moderna.

Last month during a Special Committee on Canada-China Relations meeting, Director of the Canadian Centre for Vaccinology, Dr. Scott Halperin, accused the Chinese government of blocking the shipments for ‘political reasons’, as the trial vaccine had been sent to five other countries, but not Canada.

The CanSino vaccine has since received approvals in China, Mexico, Pakistan and Hungary, and has been approved for ‘emergency use’ in Chile. It doesn’t require to be stored at extreme temperatures and is only a single dose shot. In global trials, it’s been proven to be about 65 percent effective.

“Once this crisis is over, we need to get to the bottom of how this happened so we can ensure Canada is never left as unprepared as we were when Covid hit last year,” adds Melillo.

The No Frills Pharmacy in Kenora, Shoppers Drug Mart in Dryden, the Pharmasave in Fort Frances and about 700 other pharmacies in the province are now able to provide the shot. Appointments can be booked through your local pharmacy directly.

As of April 7, anyone born in 1961 or earlier can book their vaccine appointment through the NWHU. Others who are now eligible include:

• Health Care Workers, including staff who work in congregate living settings
• Adult Home Care Recipients
• Faith leaders who provide end-of-life care, care of the deceased, funerals, home visits to unwell persons, or pastoral care in hospitals, LTCH, etc.
• Indigenous adults, including Metis aged 18+ (and their household members)

Those with the following health conditions:

• Organ transplant recipients;
• Hematopoietic stem cell transplant recipients;
• People with neurological diseases in which respiratory function may be compromised (e.g., motor neuron disease, myasthenia gravis, multiple sclerosis);
• Haematological malignancy diagnosed less than one year ago;
• Sickle cell disease;
• Kidney disease eGFR< 30;
• Essential caregivers for individuals in the groups listed above.

Anyone who is in the groups listed above must fill out the NWHU’s registration form to then receive a booking code and instructions from the Ministry of Health. You can find information on how to book an appointment HERE.

Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms or who has been in contact with a positive case is asked to self-isolate, get tested and remain in isolation until your test results are known.