Despite a handful of delivery delays, Canadian officials remain confident that the country is on track to hit its vaccination targets.
The ultimate goal — as promised by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — is that everyone who wants to be vaccinated will be by September.
Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, who is overseeing logistical planning for Canada’s vaccine distribution efforts, reiterated Thursday that Canada is still very much on track to meet all aforementioned goals.
“We’re currently in a period of more restricted numbers for the first quarter. We’ve done what we can to stretch it out — everyone has tried to stretch out the results of the production, given the demand — but production is increasing, and there is no indication that the opposite will take place,” he told reporters at a virtual press conference.
Federal officials are cautiously optimistic that the delivery headaches will soon be behind Canada.
The month-long slowdown of deliveries should end next week, according to Fortin, triggering the single biggest shipments from Pfizer to date.
Coronavirus: Canada’s vaccine strategy to ramp up at end of Q1, Njoo says
Starting Monday, Pfizer will deliver just over 400,000 doses to Canada.
That will scale up to 475,000 doses for the week of Feb. 22. Throughout the first two weeks of March, Fortin said Pfizer has confirmed it will ship 444,000 doses.
In total, over the next four weeks, Canada is expected to receive nearly 1.8 million doses from Pfizer.
All of the above deliveries will reflect the recent label change authorization, which will permit vaccinators to draw six doses from a single vial, instead of five. Health Canada approved Pfizer’s request to change the regimen on Feb. 9, coming about a month after the U.S. and the European Union did the same. The change will require vaccinators to administer the shots using a special syringe, which Fortin and Arianne Reza, the associate deputy minister at Public Services and Procurement Canada, say are also already in circulation and being distributed.
Fortin acknowledged there will be a “fair bit of synchronizing” to do with provinces and territories as the vaccination campaign ramps up, but said they’re working “tirelessly” to ensure the right information is provided to provinces so they can prepare.
“Despite temporary delays, efforts are going as expected thanks to the collaboration from all levels of government,” he said. “We expect to share information with provinces as soon as possible.”
As for Moderna, Fortin provided a slightly clearer picture of shipments.
The company ships its drug on a three-week cycle. Canada expects to receive 168,000 doses the week of Feb. 22 — but that’s only two-thirds of what it was supposed to be.
Coronavirus: Canada to see “significant increase in vaccine supply” from April-June, Fortin says
Previously, Fortin was unable to provide an estimate of the quantities expected from Moderna. He insisted it was a temporary issue, but offered no details as to why Moderna alerted Canada of the reduction.
At the time, Fortin acknowledged that Moderna would not hit its previously projected target of 249,000 doses for that last week of February.
According to The Canadian Press, the company is struggling to ramp up production with its Swiss manufacturing partner Lonza.
Fortin said Canada does not have delivery estimates from Moderna past the next two weeks but insisted they’re in regular communication with the company.
“We’re on the right path,” Fortin said.
“Moderna has assured us that we will have received the two million total by the end of March. That is the information I am working off today. That is the information the government of Canada is working with. We are confident that we are working well with Moderna… If there were any problems, they’d raise them.”
Pfizer previously had to reduce its shipment targets to Canada and other countries while the pharmaceutical company completed upgrades to its plant in Belgium. Those delays have since passed for Canada.
A spokesperson for Pfizer Canada told The Canadian Press that those upgrades are complete and that production is back on track to meet Canada’s order of four million doses by the end of March.
— with files from The Canadian Press
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Update: Quebec opens vaccination appointments for 70+ in Montreal and Laval – Montreal Gazette
Nine areas of Ontario move into new tiers of coronavirus framework today; two go into lockdown – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News
The Canadian Press
Published Monday, March 1, 2021 5:41AM EST
Last Updated Monday, March 1, 2021 6:31AM EST
TORONTO — New public health measures meant to limit the spread of COVID-19 went into effect across nine Ontario regions today, including two that are heading into lockdown due to rising case counts.
The Thunder Bay and Simcoe-Muskoka health units have seen infections rising in recent days, driven in part by transmission of more infectious variants of the virus.
The province activated what it describes as an “emergency brake” for those districts, moving them to the grey tier of Ontario’s colour-coded pandemic response plan.
The move will impose a variety of more stringent public health measures in those regions, including capping most indoor gatherings at 10 people, closing restaurants to in-person service and forcing non-essential retailers to operate at 25-per-cent capacity.
Seven other public health units will be easing restrictions as they move down a level in the provincial framework.
The Niagara Region is now classified as red, the Chatham-Kent, Middlesex-London and Southwestern units all move to the orange tier, Haldimand-Norfolk and Huron Perth transition to the yellow level, and Grey Bruce will become a green zone with the least restrictive measures in place.
Feds hoping for AstraZeneca shots this week as Pfizer-BioNTech prepare next delivery – CTV News
The federal government hopes to start receiving doses of AstraZeneca’s recently approved COVID-19 vaccine this week as the flood of shots that flowed into Canada from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna last week partially subsides.
Health Canada announced on Friday that it had approved the AstraZeneca vaccine, the third COVID-19 shot to have received regulatory approval since the start of the pandemic.
Canada has ordered 24 million doses of the vaccine, with the majority to be delivered from the United States between April and September.
But two million jabs have been ordered from the Serum Institute of India, and Verity Pharmaceuticals, which is facilitating the institute’s application in Canada, has said the first 500,000 would reach Canadian shores this week.
A senior government official told The Canadian Press on background Sunday that the first of those doses could start to arrive in Canada as early as Wednesday, though the shipment has not been confirmed.
Dr. Supriya Sharma, the chief medical adviser at Health Canada, also told the CBC on Sunday that the regulator had received additional information over the weekend from Johnson and Johnson, which is seeking approval for its own vaccine. Regulators in the U.S. gave it the green light over the weekend.
Sharma said Health Canada is hoping to approve Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine in “the next couple of weeks,” but added any decision is contingent on the information presented by the company.
As it stands now, the Public Health Agency of Canada is currently only expecting delivery of about 445,000 vaccine doses this week, which is about 200,000 less than last week’s record high of 640,000 doses in a seven-day period.
The confirmed doses are all coming from Pfizer-BioNTech, as the two companies settle into a rhythm following a month-long delivery lull in January and much of February due to production upgrades in Europe. The pharmaceutical giants have pledged to deliver 4 million doses by the end of March.
Canada received 168,000 doses of Moderna’s vaccine last week, but the company only delivers every three weeks.
Clinical trials showed the AstraZeneca vaccine to be less effective at preventing infection than the other two, but it is still keeping people from getting very sick or dying, Sharma said Friday.
Pfizer and Moderna both reported their products were 95 per cent effective in preventing COVID-19 infections in immunized patients compared to those who received a placebo. Efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine is believed to be around 62 per cent.
It’s not entirely clear yet how provinces and territories will incorporate the AstraZeneca vaccine into their inoculation efforts, but the product offers a more flexible option since shots can be shipped and stored in refrigerators rather than freezers.
AstraZeneca vaccines are to be given in two doses between four and 12 weeks apart. Sharma said there is some indication that waiting longer for a follow-up jab leads to a better response, but that data is not yet complete.
There have been some concerns raised about the AstraZeneca vaccine in recent weeks, including its effectiveness against virus variants of concern and whether there is enough data to show it works on older recipients.
Several European countries, including Germany and France, limited AstraZeneca’s vaccine to residents under the age of 65.
Sharma said there were a limited number of people over 65 involved in the clinical trials, but that data, coupled with the real-world experience in the United Kingdom, shows strong evidence seniors are protected.
Canada’s vaccine program is ramping up after the lengthy slowdown in deliveries.
More than 300,000 people were vaccinated in the last week, almost one-fifth of the total doses injected since the first immunizations began Dec. 14.
About 700,000 people had received one dose as of Friday afternoon, and more than 500,000 are now fully vaccinated with two doses.
Quebec is set to expand its vaccination effort to the general public on Monday by allowing seniors 85 or older to begin booking appointments. The age threshold has been lowered to 80 for seniors in the Montreal area.
The AstraZeneca vaccine works differently than the other two already in use in Canada.
Both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna use messenger RNA technology, using RNA encoded with the piece of the SARS-CoV-2 virus known as the spike protein. The mRNA trains the body to fight off a COVID-19 infection.
AstraZeneca is a viral vector vaccine, which takes a cold virus, modifies it so it can’t reproduce itself, and adds the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. When injected, it too provokes the body to develop infection-fighting antibodies and cells to combat the virus.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb
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