OTTAWA -- Health Minister Patty Hajdu says that if China misled the world in the early stages of the pandemic, then they will need to be held to account.

Bloomberg News and The New York Times reported in April that the U.S. intelligence community had warned the U.S. administration in a classified report that China "concealed the extent of the coronavirus outbreak in its country."

Multiple countries have also questioned China's early response, including the U.K. and France.

"If China wasn't honest, then they need to be held to account," Hajdu said in an interview with CTV Question Period Host Evan Solomon, airing Sunday.

"But I can tell you this, the World Health Organization, although flawed, I will repeat, is an important organization in combating global pandemics. And we need to have global co-operation," she added.

The health minister has previously defended China’s handling of the outbreak. When news emerged about the U.S. intelligence community warnings in April, she said there was no evidence China had misled anyone with their reports.

"There is no indication that the data that came out of China in terms of their infection rate, and their death rate, was falsified in any way," Hajdu said during a press conference on April 2, the day after the Bloomberg News and New York Times stories were published.

When pressed on whether the World Health Organization's data can be trusted as a result of the numbers it was being sent by China, Hajdu accused the reporter behind the question of "feeding into conspiracy theories."

"There is no way to beat a global pandemic if we are actually not willing to work together as a globe," she added.

Speaking to Solomon in the interview, airing Sunday, Hajdu said that China should review its handling of the virus.

"China should have a review of how they conducted themselves during the pandemic," she said. "The World Health Organization has committed to a review of how they have responded to the Coronavirus, Canada has been a voice asking for that."

Hajdu said that Canada will be undertaking its own review and that she encourages other countries to follow suit.


As Canada contends with the impact of the virus, the health minister said she's feeling positive about a potential vaccine -- but she wouldn’t provide a timeline of when it might be available.

"I would hesitate to put a time an exact time on when we might see a vaccine," Hajdu said.

"But I will say this, there's a lot of optimism."

She said that optimism comes from the fact that Canada has procured six vaccines, and three of those are undergoing a rolling approval process that helps to speed things up.

"That means that we're getting closer. There are a number of vaccines around the world that are in third stage clinical trials, and I think there's a lot of optimism and enthusiasm about the potential of a vaccine," Hajdu said.

She did, however, temper the expectations of anyone who is viewing a potential vaccine as a silver bullet.

"A vaccine is not going to end the pandemic. It's going to be a really important tool to protect people," Hajdu said.

The health minister explained that a vaccine, once approved, will be rolled out based on vulnerability to the virus and then, eventually, will be a way to "slow down the spread of the virus."

"I want Canadians to know is that Health Canada will ensure that whatever vaccine is approved is safe for use in Canada, and is working as quickly as possible to assess the evidence as it comes in."