This is a summary, written by members of the CITF Secretariat, of:

Wilson K, Sher G., Philpott J. Preparing for the next pandemic by creating Canadian Immunization Services. Canadian Medical Association Journal 2021, 193, E1092–E1093. Doi:10.1503/cmaj.210670

The results and/or conclusions contained in the research do not necessarily reflect the views of all CITF members.

As we navigate the ongoing pandemic, the effectiveness of Canada’s pandemic response is being evaluated. The auditor-general’s report, released in March 2021, outlined challenges, missteps, and lessons learned. In a Canadian Medical Association Journal commentary, CITF-funded researcher Dr. Kumanan Wilson and colleagues, Drs. Graham Sher and Jane Philpott, react to Canada’s response and suggest creating a new entity for coordinating Canada’s immunization system.

Key points:

  • Canada’s current challenges to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic response remain similar to its challenges with previous responses, despite calls to action.
  • The challenges largely relate to fragmented responsibility regarding public health measures and a lack of pan-Canadian coordination for monitoring and surveillance of the pandemic.
  • Developing a pan-Canadian system based on the model used by the Canadian Blood Services could help to improve data sharing and coordination, in order to implement a coordinated and evidence-driven response.

Wilson and colleagues highlight challenges to the pandemic response due to Canada’s decentralized public health system; they state that the most recent auditor-general report reiterated much of what previous reports have indicated. The authors describe how public health management in Canada is conducted at the provincial and territorial level, making it difficult to have a national unified response. Based on previous experiences with pandemics, the authors suggest developing a formal interprovincial and interterritorial collaboration instead of maintaining this disjointed approach.

Wilson and colleagues use the development of the Canadian Blood Services (CBS) following the tainted blood scandal as an example; the CBS now operates independently yet is funded by provinces and territories with a clear national mandate (with Québec as the exception). In the context of a pandemic, this new entity, termed Canadian Immunization Services, would coordinate pan-Canadian disease surveillance and mass immunization responses.