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Archived - Speaking Notes for Dr. Gregory Taylor Chief Public Health Officer of Canada: Canadian Immunization Conference

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Tuesday, December 2, 2014
Ottawa, ON

Thank you, Parliamentary Secretary Adams.

Good morning everyone. Welcome to Ottawa, and to the 11th Canadian Immunization Conference.

I’d like to begin by echoing the Parliamentary Secretary’s thanks to the Canadian Public Health Association for leading this year’s event.

From my perspective, the Canadian Public Health Association and its partners have put together an outstanding agenda for the next few days – one that captures the most timely and relevant topics in immunization.

I hope you find it inspiring and productive.

I’d also like to wish a very happy ‘golden anniversary’ to the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, or NACI, and thank the committee and all its past members and chairs for their dedication and efforts.

50 years is an incredible milestone.

It’s astounding to think of all of the developments in immunization we’ve seen over that half-century.

The near-eradication of polio and the move towards the elimination of measles and rubella.

Promising new vaccines for constantly advancing threats, like Ebola and H1N1.

These are the success stories Canadians hear about.

But then there are the stories we don’t hear about as often as we should.

The fact that Canada has one of the highest universal vaccine coverage rates in the developed world.

The fact that 95% of Canadian families across the country are vaccinated against measles.

The fact that we have a bulk purchasing program for vaccines that is unique worldwide.

The fact that in 2009 we went from a diagnosis of H1N1 to a mass vaccination campaign which saw nearly half of Canadians getting the H1N1 shot in a matter of months.

The fact that we can boast some of the world’s leading lights in the field, like Scott Halperin of the Canadian Immunization Research Network, who will be speaking to you shortly, and the experts at our groundbreaking National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, including Dr. Gary Kobinger.

And the fact that Canada was at the table working on vaccines for viral haemorrhagic fevers like Ebola before anyone else was paying much attention.

The result of that commitment today is that our country developed one of the world’s leading vaccine candidates for the devastating Ebola outbreak.

Our Ebola vaccine is the product of more than 10 years of detailed and painstaking research by our scientists to thoroughly understand the Ebola virus and to find ways of defending against it.  

I am pleased to note that to date several clinical trials for the our vaccine have launched, including two in the United States, one in Switzerland and one in Canada that is being led by the Canadian Immunization Research Network at Dalhousie University in Halifax.

Recently the Canadian Institutes of Health Research launched a call for expressions of interest for Canadian researchers to participate in a Phase 2/3 vaccine trial to be conducted in Guinea, in collaboration with Norway and other international partners. These trials would begin after relevant global authorities, including the WHO, have examined the initial safety data from the Phase 1 trials and reached a consensus that it is safe to proceed to wider testing.

Canada should be proud of its rich history, and inspired by our ongoing commitment to this crucial public health intervention.

But, stepping in to the Chief Public Health Officer position, I know that we face a lot of unknowns as we look to the future.

The spectre of anti-microbial resistance threatens to undo some of the great strides in health interventions we’ve made over the years.

There are still pockets of unimmunized or under-immunized children that can reintroduce infectious diseases.

And despite our incredible successes, we continue to see vaccine hesitancy in some populations.

We risk losing ground on diseases that devastated families and generations before us.

Diseases that Canadian children should only see in history books.

And it’s in part for these reasons that I’ve reinforced how important it is we – as a public health, science and research community – prepare for the future, as best we can.

It’s clear to me that to be able to meet tomorrow’s global public health challenges, we must be able to look outside our own expertise and partner with others, so we’re better-prepared to act instead of reacting.

And it’s clear to me that we should continue to use the gift of our federated system to our advantage.

In my view, the federated model is one of our greatest strengths, allowing a multitude of expertise and experience across the country to converge in our country’s unified, innovative approaches to public health challenges.

Our shared success stories prove that our challenges are not insurmountable.

The way we communicate may have to change.

The way we present new evidence to health professionals may need to change as well.

But in many ways, those same challenges are the very things that enhance our capacity to adapt and act together.

It’s easier now to reach people where they are, with the tools they need, to make informed decisions.

There are more innovative ideas to be developed – like the fantastic ImmunizeCA app, and the Agency’s revised A Parent’s Guide to Vaccination, which you can pick up at the Agency’s booth today.

The Public Health Agency will continue to support the kind of innovation we need to see going forward.

Because looking to the future, I see more opportunities to share our story…

…To understand our diverse audiences and be inclusive.

…To have the knowledge and resources ready.

And to simplify processes that make it easier for Canadians to make the right decisions.

The next generation of public health professionals, researchers and scientists have a lot of work to do.

Today, on behalf of the Public Health Agency of Canada, I want to signal my commitment to working with you as we move down that road.

And I want to thank you for your contributions to the strong, robust immunization systems we have today, and for the excellent work you do for all Canadians.

Enjoy the conference. Merci beaucoup.

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