|Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the state of the pandemic is “frightening,” and is vowing that the number of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines being delivered to Canada will “scale up,” in February.
In a national address on Friday, the prime minister said that 68 delivery sites across the country received thousands of Pfizer and Moderna doses this week. In light of provincial calls for more doses, he said quantities of both will continue to increase.
“Quantities of both the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccine will scale up in February. Remember that Canada has the most vaccines secured per capita in the world, which means that, by September, we will have enough vaccines for every Canadian who wants one,” he said during his national update on the COVID-19 response on Friday.
As the rollout plan stands over the rest of January, Canada will receive 208,650 Pfizer doses per week. In February Canada will receive approximately 367,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine per week, before hitting a total of four million shots distributed by the end of March.
The next batch of Moderna doses—which are being delivered every three weeks—will arrive next week and include 171,000 doses, as will the first February shipment. Delivery amounts will then be increasing to up to 250,000 doses weekly in order to hit the planned two million Moderna doses distributed by the end of March.
“As our collective understanding of these new vaccines evolves and the manufacturer updates their product monographs and instructions, we are able to adapt, how and where we distribute and administer vaccines to Canadians,” said Fortin.
For example, he said Pfizer has updated its guidelines in the last week to administer doses in a thawed state and in smaller tray sizes, meaning the vaccines can be transported and administered to more sites across Canada.
Facing questions about the coming dose delivery schedule and whether larger shipments of these two vaccines is possible, Procurement Minister Anita Anand said she’s continuing talks with the manufacturers about accelerating shipments.
Though, as the lead of Canada’s national rollout said, Canada’s vaccination strategy is deliberately phased.
“This initial phase, or phase one, is characterized by limited and steady supply of vaccines for much of January, February, and March before we see a significant ramp up leading into April and the rest of the second quarter of the year,” said Maj. Gen. Dany Fortin on Friday.
“A total of six million doses are expected to be distributed by end of March,” he said.
In a statement, Conservative health critic Michelle Rempel Garner called on Trudeau to procure additional vaccines.
“Canadian provinces are running out of vaccines and are pleading for the federal government to get more. Meanwhile, people in Israel are getting their vaccines ten times faster than Canadians. The United States is on track to vaccinate the equivalent of our population before most Canadians will get the chance. But Canada only has a federal Liberal government finger-pointing on who is responsible for a slow vaccine delivery rollout,” she said.
“It doesn’t matter how many doses the federal Liberals supposedly ordered; the reality is that they’re not here now.”
As for whether Canada could still hit the September target for all Canadians receiving the vaccine, Anand said Health Canada approval of an additional vaccine would be required to receive the total number of doses necessary to immunize the entire population, though the majority of vaccines given to Canadians will likely be one of the two shots currently approved.
The next two vaccines in line for potential Health Canada sign-off are the AstraZeneca and Johnson Johnson candidates. Health Canada Senior Medical Advisor Dr. Supriya Sharma said Friday that the agency is expecting additional clinical and manufacturing information from both studies in the coming weeks, but so far the reviews are progressing “well.”
As Canada’s contracts with these pharmaceutical companies stand, Canada has secured access to up to 76 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine; up to 40 million doses of the Moderna vaccine; up to 20 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine candidate; and up to 38 million doses of the Johnson Johnson vaccine candidate.
On Thursday night Trudeau held a call with his provincial and territorial counterparts about the pace of the vaccine rollout. After calling for premiers to get on with it, provinces and their health care facilities have accelerated their administration of immunizations and are now calling for larger deliveries of doses from the federal government, more quickly.
Addressing the comments from some provincial officials—including those at Ontario’s University Health Network—who have said they are running out of vaccine doses with hundreds of health-care workers slated to receive shots in the coming days, Anand suggested they use the figures released on Friday to plan accordingly.
“That schedule is in existence, it has been shared with the public, and the provinces, and the planning should take place on the basis of that schedule,” she said.
“Our numbers are their numbers,” added Fortin.
During Trudeau’s cross-Canada call with the premiers, the political leaders also discussed the continued rise in COVID-19 cases and increasing outbreaks in long-term care homes.
COVID-19 INFECTION RATE FRIGHTENING
The prime ministers latest update from Rideau Cottage comes as one of Ontario’s top public health officials is warning the pandemic curve is going “the wrong way.”
“Todays numbers are to be frank, they are scary… Its going the wrong way,” Ontario’s Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Barbara Yaffe said Friday morning. “We have more and more people hospitalized, more and more people in ICU, more and more people on ventilators.”
Across the country, with many focused on the vaccine administration figures, the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths are climbing following the holiday season, despite varying degrees of lockdowns across Canada.
“Were in a desperate situation,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford said Friday of the situation in his province. “This is the most serious situation weve ever been in… since the beginning of this pandemic.”
There are more than 80,000 active cases across the country, and there have been a total of 639,3833 confirmed COVID-19 infections since the start of the pandemic. More than 16,500 people have died.
“Frankly, it’s frightening to see cases rise at home and around the world, day after day,” Trudeau said.
Acknowledging the state of the pandemic, the prime minister said he knows things are “tough” right now, imploring people to take the necessary public health measures and committing to keep up federal aid from economic supports to the deployment of the military to assist in communities facing outbreaks.