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Feds secure 500K vaccine doses for January as lockdown calls grow – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News



Federal officials say they’re pushing manufacturers to accelerate shipments of more COVID-19 vaccine doses as calls grow to lock down more parts of the country for the holidays.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada is running ahead of schedule in its vaccine rollout, which is set to ramp up next month with scheduled deliveries of 125,000 Pfizer-BioNTech doses per week, for a total of 500,000 doses in January.

Trudeau told reporters that 200,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will arrive next week. And pending Health Canada approval, he said 168,000 doses of Moderna’s vaccine candidate will be shipped by the end of the year.

The federal government is also investing about $9 million through the National Research Council of Canada to support the development of treatments for COVID-19 and other viral infections, Trudeau said. The funding will go to four Canadian companies working on therapies, including two in Montreal and two in Vancouver.

But even as Canada’s immunization campaign steams ahead, Trudeau warned that vaccines won’t reach the broader population fast enough for a Christmas miracle, urging Canadians to limit the size of their holiday celebrations.

“As much as many of us want to see our loved ones this Christmas … we also want to be able to see them and give them big hugs next Christmas.”

Procurement Minister Anita Anand said Friday that Canada is on track to receive 255,000 doses from Pfizer-BioNTech in December, up from an expected 249,000 doses.

“In the last two weeks, Canada has aggressively pursued, negotiated, received and administered early doses of the very first COVID 19 vaccine in this country,” Anand told a news conference.

“We are in constant contact with our suppliers, and these increased numbers reflect our negotiations.”

Massachusetts-based biotech firm Moderna also revealed that its COVID-19 vaccine candidate, which is expected to soon be authorized in Canada and the U.S., can now be shipped without it needing to be frozen.

The development looks to ease the logistics of getting the vaccine to remote locations, a Moderna spokeswoman said.

Previously, it was believed the vaccine had to remain frozen to at least -20 C until shortly before use, but the company said it can now safely transport liquid doses as refrigerated at between 2 C and 8 C.

But Anand noted that the new requirements don’t apply to vaccine storage, saying the government is still working to procure freezers to store them once they arrive at their destination, when Health Canada gives the regulatory all-clear.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, also said Friday that health-care workers should check Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine vials for extra doses before throwing them out.

Tam said the manufacturer has confirmed that some vials contain more than the five doses of 0.3 ml indicated on the label.

She said this excess provides a “buffer zone” to account for potential losses that can occur during storage, preparation and injection of the vaccine.

“I haven’t got on-the-ground information as to whether someone is able to get six versus five doses,” she said. “But the bottom line is don’t throw it away after five doses … check to see if there’s another dose.”

Tam said Canada’s COVID-19 caseload continues to rise, with an average of more than 6,650 infections reported daily over the past seven days.

The number of people experiencing severe illness is also on the rise, she said, with an average of 4,000 patients being treated in hospital over the past week, including 650 in critical care and 115 deaths reported each day.

Tam said the rapid spread of the virus continues apace in many parts of the country, and she worries the holiday season will only accelerate that trajectory.

“I believe that in many areas of the country, stricter measures should be put in place as soon as possible,” she said.

Ontario is set to reveal new measures Monday as the province extended its lockdowns in two COVID-19 hotspots.

Premier Doug Ford said Friday that restrictions set to expire next week in Toronto and Peel Region will remain in place, and his government will contemplate new measures during emergency talks on COVID-19 this weekend.

Ontario reported 2,290 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday and 40 new deaths due to the virus.

– with files from Mia Rabson

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 18, 2020.

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Pfizer vaccine delay means BC is prioritizing second doses | News – Daily Hive



BC’s top doctor says the province’s most vulnerable residents should all receive their COVID-19 vaccine by the end of March, despite Pfizer’s shipping delay.

The vaccine manufacturer is making upgrades to its European facility to increase the number of doses it can produce. But in the short term, countries receiving shipments from that facility will get fewer doses.

Such delays are to be expected in a large and global vaccine rollout, Dr. Bonnie Henry said at her Monday news conference.

“It’s a bit of a setback but is only a delay,” she said. “We are still on track to protect the most vulnerable by the end of March.”

Due to the delay, a higher proportion of vaccine doses the province has on hand will be going toward second doses and fewer will be used for first doses. BC is still confident second doses can be administered at the 35-day mark.

In the meantime, it’s important that people keep their distance, wear masks, wash their hands, and don’t participate in social gatherings, Henry said.

The most significant impact of Pfizer’s shipping delays will be felt in late January and early February.

During the week of January 25, Pfizer will only deliver one-quarter of Canada’s expected COVID-19 vaccine doses. In the first two weeks of February, the company will deliver half of the expected doses.

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Ontario's first major COVID-19 vaccination site will pause after just 5 days due to supply shortage – CTV Toronto



Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg says a pilot COVID-19 vaccination clinic that just opened today at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre will have to pause vaccinations on Friday because of a shortage of vaccine supply in the province.

The proof-of-concept clinic opened Monday and is meant to help develop a blueprint for how shots should be administered in non-medical settings as soon as this spring. So far, COVID-19 vaccines have only been administered at long-term care homes and at 19 hospital sites across Ontario.

Pegg said last week the facility would be “scale-able” and capable of increasing output with little notice, with an initial target of 250 doses per day.

But at the city’s media briefing on Monday, he said the province has now asked the city to pause vaccinations at the new clinic by the end of Friday.  

“We were all disappointed to learn that the delivery of Pfizer vaccine to Canada is expected to be delayed as a result of manufacturing delays in Europe. As a result, we have now been advised by the province that we will only be able to operate this proof of concept clinic for an initial five days due to the lack of availability of COVID-19 vaccine,” Pegg said.

He said anyone with an appointment at the clinic from Jan. 23 on should expect that their appointment will be cancelled.

Peg said those who receive their first dose at the clinic this week will still be able to get their second dose within the proper timeframe.

The clinic will resume vaccinations once it gets word from the province that it may do so. In the meantime, Pegg said the city is continuing to plan for a quick rollout of the vaccine when more doses become available.

“We are continuing to explore all options to accelerate our ability to administer vaccines to Toronto residents once larger quantities of vaccine are available,” he said. “This will include planning for extended hours of clinic operations, expanded clinic capacity targets and implementing innovative delivery methods that meet the needs of our city, including mobile vaccine clinics, priority neighborhood response, hospital-led clinic operations and widespread public access via pharmacies and primary care physicians.”

The site had been expected to run for at least six weeks in order to gather data about how best to host vaccination drives in larger settings.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Tory toured the site at MTCC’s North Building just on Sunday.

While the clinic was meant to use the Moderna vaccine, the Pfizer delays mean that some of that supply will now be redistributed to other parts of the province.

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Couche-Tard to pursue other deals after Carrefour failure – BNN



Executives at Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. defended a failed bid for Carrefour SA and said they would still like to buy the French grocer some day, but will turn their focus to other potential deals.

The Canadian convenience store operator made a US$20 billion offer that was shot down by French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire on Friday. The bid caught investors off guard because Couche-Tard does not operate supermarkets.

The shares tumbled nearly 11 per cent last week. On Monday, they were up 2.4 per cent to $38.90 as of 9:36 a.m. in Toronto.

In response to criticism of the deal, Couche-Tard executive chairman Alain Bouchard said previous large deals — including the 2003 acquisition of Circle K — also surprised the market, but they worked out.

“Over the last decades while growing our business we have made many bold moves, some of which were not always obvious to our stakeholders,” Bouchard said on a conference call with investors Monday.

“Was I hoping our bold approach to Carrefour would have turned out differently? Of course. Yet I’m tremendously proud that Couche-Tard had the financial strength and acumen to make such an offer.”

The companies announced the end of negotiations on Saturday, four days after Bloomberg first reported the talks, and said they’ll work instead on a looser alliance in areas including fuel purchasing and product distribution.

Couche-Tard executives gave few details on that alliance Monday, calling the talks exploratory. Chief Executive Officer Brian Hannasch said there is a “robust” set of other acquisitions to examine as it pursues a five-year goal of doubling profit by 2023.

Hannasch said the door is open to a future Carrefour merger if the political climate in France changes.

“I’m old enough to believe there’s no such thing as permanently,” he said. “We’d love to do the transaction, so if we got signals that the environment could change or would change from the French government or the key stakeholders, we’d love the opportunity to re-engage — under the right conditions and assuming we haven’t found another way to create more value for our shareholders.”

The Laval, Quebec-based company has been making headway on its growth plans even without a major acquisition in recent years. Analysts expect adjusted earnings per share to be 16 per cent higher for the fiscal year that ends in April, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Even so, its valuation has dipped.

The chain has been improving its coffee and adding fresh food offerings, which come with higher margins. It’s digging into analytics to improve pricing and promotions, and planning to roll out electric vehicle charging stations in North America after learning from its experience in Norway.

Couche-Tard strengthened its foothold in Asia by buying about 370 stores in Hong Kong and Macau that previously were Circle K brand licensees. But a large takeover has remained elusive since it signed a US$4 billion purchase of Texas-based CST Brands Inc. in 2016.

In April, the company walked away from a US$5.6 billion proposal for gas station chain Caltex Australia Ltd. (now known as Ampol Ltd.), citing pandemic uncertainty. And it missed out on Marathon Petroleum Corp.’s Speedway gas stations, which were scooped up in August by Japan’s Seven & i Holdings Co., the world’s largest convenience store operator, for US$21 billion.

Balance Sheet

Couche-Tard executives have scoffed at the valuation of Speedway. Addressing shareholders at the company’s annual meeting in September, Bouchard cited it as an example of the company’s discipline around acquisitions.

The balance sheet leaves it in a good place to hunt for deals. The company had about US$5.5 billion in net debt at the end of its October quarter, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. It’s earned US$3.5 billion in operating profit in the last four quarters.

Chief Financial Officer Claude Tessier told analysts in November that the current debt ratio is at half of Couche-Tard’s comfort level.

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