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Canada doesn't know how many more Moderna doses will be delivered, or why there are delays – CBC.ca

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Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the military commander leading vaccine logistics at the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), said today Canada doesn’t know how many Moderna doses will arrive in the weeks ahead and the company hasn’t said why it has reduced shipments to our country.

Speaking to reporters at a public health briefing, Fortin said 180,000 Moderna doses arrived this morning but the government has no “visibility” on how many more shots will be delivered this month and next.

Despite these unknowns, Fortin said Canada is still expecting 2 million Moderna doses to be delivered by the end of March to meet the prime minister’s promised vaccination targets.

According to a planning document disseminated to the provinces this week, PHAC has already warned provinces to expect disruptions with the next scheduled Moderna delivery, which is set to arrive on Feb. 22.

The Massachusetts-based company, which delivers shots every three weeks, told Canadian officials last week that the shipments for the week of Feb. 1 would be reduced by 20-25 per cent, and now it appears this month’s second shipment is also likely to be lower than expected.

“Moderna reduced shipment quantities for the week of 1-7 Feb. (from 230,400 to 180,000 doses). The week of 22 Feb. will also be impacted, but Moderna cannot confirm allocations for that week yet,” the PHAC document sent to the province reads.

Fortin said he had no idea just how many doses will be on hand by the end of the month, but he knows it will be less than expected.

“I can’t really tell you what the quantity will be. We don’t expect to receive 249,000 at this time,” he said, referencing the figure the company had previously provided. “We’ll soon be able to share that with provinces, in confidence. We just don’t know what those numbers are for certain.”

Fortin conceded that the dearth of information is “a real limitation in the short term,” saying he understood why provinces are frustrated that they’ve had to cancel appointments and push back second doses as a result of the severe delivery disruptions.

“I completely understand that it’s making it more difficult for provinces to prepare clinics,” he said.

WATCH: Canada’s Moderna COVID-19 vaccine delays remain unexplained

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin says he’s not sure how many doses Canada will receive of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine in the weeks ahead and doesn’t know what’s causing the delay. 2:37

While Pfizer has offered some explanation for why its shipments have been dramatically lower than expected — plant upgrades at a facility in Belgium caused deliveries to drop by 80 per cent — Fortin said Moderna hasn’t said why it’s had to put off tens of thousands of doses to a later delivery date.

“They haven’t shared the specific challenges that they may experience in their yields or in their production,” Fortin said. “I think Moderna has indicated that they are, in good faith, trying their best to provide as many doses as possible.”

In a statement to CBC News, a spokesperson for Moderna said the company is trying to step up production at the European facilities that supply Canada with shots.

“Vaccine manufacturing is a highly complex process. In normal circumstances it may take three to four years to prepare for the industrial launch of a vaccine. Moderna is proud of its achievements to date with the support of its partners,” the spokesperson said.

While Canada’s Moderna supply will be curtailed this month, the company is churning out more shots in the U.S. Shipments there have increased by about 35 per cent in the last week.

We should not be drawing away from poorer countries — we should be having the capacity here. We’re a G7 country and we’re trailing.– Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole

The spokesperson said, because Moderna’s vaccine was partially funded by monies from former president Donald Trump’s Operation Warp Speed, it is obligated to send a certain number of doses to the U.S. this quarter.

“Moderna has provided short term revised delivery guidance outside of the U.S., including to the government of Canada, based on the ramp up trajectory of drug substance manufacturing in Switzerland,” the spokesperson said.

To meet the prime minister’s target of six million COVID-19 shots delivered by the end of March, more than 3.5 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna products will have to be delivered in the month of March alone — or roughly 885,000 doses a week.

Pfizer, which delivers its product weekly, is expected to deliver 79,000 Pfizer doses this week and an additional 70,000 doses for the week of Feb. 8., before ramping up at month’s end. 

Canada ranks 33rd on vaccine effort

Health Canada regulators are expected to approve another promising vaccine candidate — the product from AstraZeneca — in the “coming days,” which could give a jolt to Canada’s stalled vaccination campaign.

But for that product, too, Fortin said he didn’t know how many, if any, doses would be delivered in the coming weeks. He said PHAC has developed a number of possible delivery scenarios if AstraZeneca secures the green light, but that information would not be made public.

Canada has fallen behind other developed nations in the number of shots administered per capita as supply disruptions derail planned vaccinations. 

According to data collated by the University of Oxford-based Our World in Data, Canada now ranks 33rd globally, well behind allies like the United States and the United Kingdom but also middle-income countries like Turkey and Serbia.

Canada’s vaccination effort has also been outpaced so far by those in Bahrain, Denmark, Germany, Israel, Italy, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain and the United Arab Emirates, among others.

Canada’s decision to tap COVAX supply draws opposition fire

The government, meanwhile, is under fire on another vaccine-related matter. Canada has opted to receive shots from COVAX, a vaccine-sharing initiative funded by wealthier countries to ensure low- and middle-income countries have access to shots.

In announcing funding for the initiative last year — Canada is among the most generous financial donors to the program — the prime minister said the country intended to draw on the COVAX supply to bolster the vaccination campaign at home.

But now some opposition leaders say it is an embarrassment that Canada is intending to rely on this program for additional doses. COVAX has said Canada will receive at least 1.9 million AstraZeneca doses from the program by the end of June.

Green Party Leader Annamie Paul said Canada’s move to take doses from COVAX could prolong transmission of the virus elsewhere and allow more variants to mutate.

“This is the wrong decision, this is the wrong time to make this decision,” she said.

“People in Canada do not want this kind of decision made in their name. So, we are asking for the government to either rescind this decision, or alternatively make up for whatever doses it has taken out by returning them to the COVAX facility so that our international neighbours can enjoy the same protection we do; so we can get out of this pandemic together.”

As the only G7 country slated to draw doses from the COVAX facility, Paul said the decision also harms Canada’s international reputation.

WATCH: NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh slams COVAX decision:

During question period, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland defended the Liberal government’s decision to tap into COVAX vaccine supply. 1:06

Speaking in question period, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said the government will do it all can to bolster Canadian supply, even if it means tapping a program principally designed for developing countries.

“Our government will never apologise for doing everything in our power to get Canadians vaccinated as quickly as possible,” Freeland said. “We’ve been clear from the start: no one will be safe until everyone is. We’re focused on getting Canadians vaccinated while making sure the rest of the world is vaccinated too.”

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole declined to say if he would accept the supplies from COVAX if he were prime minister, insisting Canada would not be facing this dilemma under his leadership.

“It’s hard for me to divorce the inaction of the government over the last 10 months with what I would do today. We would not be in this position today because last year I was asking for independence on everything from PPE to vaccine manufacturing,” he said.

“We should not be drawing away from poorer countries — we should be having the capacity here. We’re a G7 country and we’re trailing,” he said.

While a laggard compared to many other wealthy nations, Canada has administered more shots per capita than G7 partner Japan.

Japan, with a population of 126 million people and just 5,400 COVID-19-related deaths, hasn’t yet started its vaccination campaign. Unlike Canada, Japan is planning to produce 90 million shots of the AstraZeneca vaccine domestically.

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Russian vodka, caviar and diamonds on new Canadian sanctions list

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OTTAWA — Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly announced a fresh wave of sanctions against Vladimir Putin’s regime on Friday including a ban on importing Russian vodka, caviar and diamonds.

The ban on the import of certain luxury goods from Russia will tighten the net on the country’s elite and covers alcoholic drinks, fish and seafood.

Canada is also banning the export of cigarettes and alcoholic drinks to Russia, as well as designer clothing, training shoes and sportswear.

The sanctions package, covering goods worth $75.7 million in 2021, includes a ban on the export of jewelry, art and even kitchenware from Canada to Russia.

Canada is also imposing a ban on products that could be used in the production and manufacture of weapons by Russia.

Joly also imposed sanctions on 14 more people, including oligarchs with links to the Russian president’s regime and their family.

They include billionaire Alexander Lebedev, a former KGB agent who bought two major newspapers, the Evening Standard and Independent, in the United Kingdom. He also finances Novaya Gazeta, Russia’s leading opposition newspaper.

Gleb Frank, owner of one of Russia’s largest fishery companies, and son of Sergei Frank, former minister of transport and former CEO of Sovcomflot, Russia’s largest shipping firm, is on the new sanctions list.

So is Gleb Frank’s wife Ksenia Frank, the youngest daughter of oligarch Gennady Timchenko, an associate of Putin. She lives in Switzerland and attended Edinburgh University in the U.K.

Elena Timchenko, wife of Gennady Timchenko, is also on the latest sanctions roll.

David Davidovich, the “right-hand man” of oligarch Roman Abramovich, is also hit by sanctions. Abramovich is selling Chelsea, the British Premier League soccer club, after being caught in an earlier wave of sanctions.

The fresh tranche of financial penalties came as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland wrapped up a round of talks with G7 counterparts in Germany, as well as with Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal.

Freeland announced Canada is extending an additional $250-million loan to Ukraine, bringing Canada’s total financial support for the war-torn country to $1.8 billion. The loan comes on top of military support and weaponry for Ukraine.

Speaking to reporters from Germany, Freeland said other G7 nations were interested in following Canada’s lead in making legislative changes allowing the confiscation and sale of Russian assets to help rebuild Ukraine.

Current laws only allow the government to freeze assets and accounts of sanctioned individuals. But Canada’s budget implementation bill sets out its intent to enact a law that would broaden the current sanctions regime to allow for the seizure of their assets.

Freeland said other G7 countries had lots of questions about “the seizure of Russian assets and using them to help pay for the reconstruction of Ukraine” and were interested in following Canada’s lead.

She said Canada has an opportunity “to lead by example and show what can be done.”

“There was a lot of interest in what Canada is doing,” Freeland said.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, Canada has imposed sanctions on more than 1,000 individuals and entities from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.

“The Putin regime must, and will, answer for their unjustifiable acts,” said Joly.

“Canada, together with our allies, will be relentless in our efforts to maintain pressure on the Russian regime, until it is no longer able to wage war. We are unwavering in our support for Ukraine and its people.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 20, 2022.

 

Marie Woolf, The Canadian Press

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Smaller telcos could feel the pinch after Ottawa prohibits use of Huawei’s 4G gear

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Experts say smaller, independent telecommunications companies will be hurt the most by a federal government decision to ban China’s Huawei Technologies and ZTE from involvement in Canada’s 5G wireless network, in a move that will also eventually prohibit their products from existing 4G services equipment.

Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne said Thursday that the government will not be reimbursing the companies which need to remove this equipment from their networks by Dec. 31, 2027.

Telecom experts say smaller companies like Ice Wireless, which serves northern Canada and partnered with Huawei in 2019, as well as British Columbia’s rural internet provider ABC Communications, which also partnered with Huawei in 2019, could be negatively affected.

“We’re not talking companies that are flush with cash. They are going to have to stop investing in the technology that they have in place and somehow come up with the money to replace the equipment over the next five years,” telecom consultant Mark Goldberg said in an interview.

“It’s a bigger deal for the smaller players, proportionate to their resources,” former Telus chief financial officer Robert McFarlane said in an interview.

McFarlane noted the United States’ creation of a fund to provide subsidies to rural carriers working with Huawei when they had banned the company, something Canada hasn’t established.

Canada’s biggest telecom companies, including Telus Corp. and Bell Canada parent BCE Inc. will likely be able to absorb the costs associated with having to pull out 4G Huawei gear, the experts said.

Telus and BCE each said in 2020 that they would be moving away from Huawei and working with Sweden’s Ericsson as a supplier for their 5G networks.

The experts also said Rogers Communications Inc., whose partnership with Ericsson began in 2018, is an even better position.

Even though rural internet provider Xplornet Communications Inc. announced in 2020 that it would no longer be relying on Huawei for its equipment, it could face financial hurdles as it transitions from 4G to 5G because it doesn’t have the same cash reserves as Canada’s major players, they add.

Huawei Canada has reacted to Ottawa’s move, saying that it is “an unfortunate political decision that has nothing to do with cybersecurity or any of the technologies in question.”

Huawei Canada added that the ban on its equipment and services could lead to “significant economic loss in Canada and drive up the cost of communications for Canadian consumers.”

In an interview Thursday, Huawei Canada vice-president Alykhan Velshi said that it would be “reckless and irresponsible” for the Canadian government to ask the company to stop supporting its existing equipment in the 5G network, noting that there are around 10,000 cellphone sites across Canada that have Huawei technology in them.

He also said that more conversations need to be had between Huawei and Ottawa.

ZTE also provided its thoughts on the decision in a statement saying that the company “reject(s) the premise of this announcement,” calling it “highly speculative.”

Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department says it welcomes Canada’s decision to ban China’s Huawei Technologies and ZTE from its next-generation mobile networks.

In a statement, the U.S. says it supports efforts around the world to ensure consumers and customers can trust their wireless networks and providers.

It says it will continue to collaborate with Canada and other allies to ensure shared security in the 5G era.

“We welcome Canada’s decision,” the State Department said in writing Friday in response to a query from The Canadian Press.

“The United States supports efforts to ensure countries, companies, and citizens can trust their wireless networks and their operators. We continue to collaborate with allies like Canada to ensure our shared security in a 5G future and beyond.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 20, 2022.

 

The Canadian Press

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Trudeau pledges more action on cybersecurity following decision to ban Huawei from 5G

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OTTAWA — A day after the federal Liberals banned Chinese firms Huawei Technologies and ZTE from helping build Canada’s 5G networks, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said more must be done to secure critical systems against threats.

The government is working closely with big financial institutions as well as other companies across the country to protect vital networks from malicious attackers, Trudeau said Friday at an event in Quebec.

Canada will do more, whether through legislation, new spending or “better and stronger partnerships,” he told reporters.

Trudeau seemed undaunted by the fact Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin raised the spectre of retaliation over Canada’s 5G decision at a press briefing Friday.

“Without any solid evidence, the Canadian side cited vague security risks as a pretext to exclude relevant Chinese companies from its market,” Wang said.

“This move violates the market economy principle and free-trade rules and severely harms the Chinese companies’ legitimate rights and interests.”

Trudeau conceded Canada’s 5G policy “may well lead to challenges of the World Trade Organization.”

“But we feel that it is extremely important to stand up for Canadian protection, Canadian interests and Canadian safety. That’s why we took this decision and we stand by it.”

The Liberal government made it clear this week that the long-awaited 5G decision is only a first step in an era of perpetual cyberattacks, ransomware operations and efforts by criminal hackers and state-sponsored players to pilfer information or sabotage key infrastructure.

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said Thursday the government would table legislation to protect critical infrastructure in the finance, telecommunications, energy and transport sectors.

In addition, Mendicino’s mandate letter from the prime minister directs him to expand efforts to detect security risks in foreign research and investment partnerships, partly by increasing RCMP and security agency resources for this purpose.

Fen Hampson, a professor of international affairs at Carleton University, said legitimate network integrity concerns, as well as persistent pressure from the United States, helped forge Canada’s decision to exclude the Chinese vendors from 5G.

“Is this going to resolve our security problems, security concerns? Absolutely not.”

Much of the “hidden wiring” of the Canadian economy lies in private hands, and securing it poses a huge challenge, he said. “We need to do a lot more.”

Hampson ponders whether Canada is prepared for a major cyberattack against a seaport or machines in the oilsands that rely on remote-communication technologies.

“I think the short answer is no,” he said. “I mean, yes, we’re getting better at it. But it’s not just being able to thwart and deter those attacks, but how resilient are we?”

The latest federal budget earmarks $875 million over five years, and $238.2 million ongoing, for cybersecurity measures including programs at the Communications Security Establishment, Canada’s electronic spy service, as well as more robust protection for small federal departments, agencies and Crown corporations.

The move is applauded as “utterly important” by Ulrike Bahr-Gedalia, senior director for digital economy, technology and innovation at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

However, the chamber wants the government to turn next to helping the private sector bolster its defences.

Bahr-Gedalia said knowing how to predict and prevent problems in the digital sphere is essential.

“It is crucial for businesses to be secure and safe,” she said. “We really want to be ahead of the game, which is so important.”

The chamber is urging the government to spend $1 billion to protect Canada’s critical infrastructure, supply chains and businesses of all sizes from cyberthreats.

This will augment the more than $7 billion already being spent by the private sector on cybersecurity products and services, it says.

It is also calling for $300 million to accelerate the commercialization of such products and services in Canada, and $200 million to build Canada’s future cybersecurity workforce through education, talent development and retention programs.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 20, 2022.

 

Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press

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