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BC government won't release Telus contract on vaccine appointment call centres – Surrey Now-Leader – Surrey Now-Leader

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British Columbia’s premier and health minister refused to directly answer questions Wednesday about the government’s contract with Telus, the provider whose call centres for COVID-19 vaccine appointments got off to a chaotic start.

The Opposition Liberals repeatedly asked Premier John Horgan and Health Minister Adrian Dix during question period to release the contract and to provide basic information including its monetary value and the number of staff promised to the centres.

Both Horgan and Dix did not provide specifics, but instead repeated earlier remarks that Monday was a “bad day,” when Vancouver Coastal Health was only able to book 369 appointments, but that steps have been taken to improve the situation.

“People have bad days all the time,” Horgan said. “I’m fairly confident that Wayne Gretzky didn’t score in every game he played in, but he kept getting on the ice and doing the best he could. That’s exactly what we did in Vancouver Coastal Health.”

The health authority was the only one that did not have a backup call centre to the system provided by Telus. More staff were added and 4,000 appointments were booked in Vancouver Coastal on Tuesday and 2,500 more as of 1 p.m. Wednesday, Dix said.

Telus apologized for the performance of the call centres on Monday, when residents 90 and up and Indigenous people over 65 became eligible to book appointments, but many experienced repeated busy signals and messages telling them to call back later.

The company has said it was asked to provide 156 agents to answer calls at all times across the province, and it increased that number to 250 by Tuesday afternoon.

RELATED: B.C. minister blasts Telus performance on 90-plus vaccine appointments

The Opposition Liberals said only 33 call-takers were originally assigned to Vancouver Coastal — the second-largest authority in the province.

The Liberals asked why the government thought it would be an adequate level of staff as well as who signed the contract and when.

Liberal Renee Merrifield, a member of the legislature for Kelowna-Mission elected last fall, called on the premier to take full responsibility for the “botched” rollout of the system.

“I fully appreciate that accountability ends with me,” Horgan said. “If that doesn’t meet the bar set by the newly minted member for Kelowna, I apologize to her as well.”

Dix said that 35,500 appointments have been booked over the past three days. He has previously said about 54,000 people are eligible to book this week.

He said each health authority signed an agreement with Telus to provide call centre capacity under a long-standing master agreement with the company.

“It’s natural that we would turn to an outstanding provider such as Telus to do this,” Dix said.

The minister added that Telus president Darren Entwistle has “personally” driven the effort over the past two days to make things right.

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COVID cases in Ontario could spike to 30,000 per day by June

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TORONTO (Reuters) – New cases of COVID-19 in Canada‘s most populous province could rise more than six fold, topping 30,000 per day by early June if public health measures are weak and vaccination rates remain flat, a panel of experts advising the province of Ontario said on Friday.

Even if measures to control the virus are “moderate,” the number of patients in Ontario ICUs could reach 2,000 in May, up from 695 on Friday.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario told doctors last week they may soon have to decide who can and cannot receive intensive care.

 

(Reporting by Allison Martell; Editing by Chris Reese)

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Moderna sees shortfall in Britain COVID vaccine shipments, EU deliveries on track

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ZURICH (Reuters) – U.S. drugmaker Moderna expects a shortfall in COVID-19 vaccine doses from its European supply chain hitting second-quarter delivery quantities for Britain and Canada, though European Union– and Swiss-bound shipments are on track, a spokesperson said.

The delays, first announced on Friday when Canada said Moderna would be delivering only about half the planned 1.2 million doses by the end of April, come as Switzerland’s Lonza ramps up three new production lines to make active ingredients for Moderna vaccine supplies outside of the United States.

“The trajectory of vaccine manufacturing ramp-up is not linear, and despite best efforts, there is a shortfall in previously estimated doses from the European supply chain,” Moderna said in a statement.

Lonza didn’t immediately return a phone call and email seeking comment on any issues in its production.

 

(Reporting by John Miller; editing by David Evans)

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Moderna says vaccines to Canada to be delayed due to Europe shortfall

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(Reuters) -Moderna Inc said on Friday a shortfall in COVID-19 vaccine doses from its European supply chain will lead to a delay in deliveries to some countries including Canada.

The drugmaker would be delivering only 650,000 doses by April end as opposed to 1.2 million, Canada‘s Procurement Minister Anita Anand said in a statement.

She said one to two million doses of the 12.3 million doses scheduled for delivery by Moderna in the second quarter would be delayed until the third.

Moderna officials in Europe did not immediately comment on the reason for the delays or give the total number of countries that would be impacted.

“Vaccine manufacturing is a highly complex process and a number of elements, including human and material resources have factored into this volatility,” said Patricia Gauthier, an executive at Moderna Canada.

Canada has distributed a total of 2.82 million doses of the Moderna vaccine as of April 14 and 12.7 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines in total.

Moderna has been aiming to deliver 700 million to 1 billion doses of the COVID-19 globally this year, including from plants in Europe and the United States.

Swiss contract drug manufacturer Lonza makes active ingredients for Moderna’s vaccine in Visp, but it was still ramping up three new production lines that once operational would be able to produce 300 million shots annually.

The current supply, demand and distribution landscape has led the drugmaker to make adjustments in the expected second-quarter deliveries, Gauthier said.

(Reporting by Manas Mishra in Bengaluru, Allison Martell in Toronto and John Miller in Zurich; Editing by Arun Koyyur)

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