With vaccines for the novel coronavirus within reach, countries around the world are rushing to secure access to doses they hope will help end a deadly pandemic that has so far killed more than 1.3 million people.
So far, Canada has secured nearly 414 million vaccine doses — more than 10 doses per-capita for a country of 37.9 million people.
This number would be enough to vaccinate Canada’s entire population “five times over,” beating out every other country in terms of confirmed orders for COVID-19 vaccines per-capita, according to a data analysis compiled by Duke University.
However, many high-income countries such as Canada “have hedged their bets” by advance-purchasing more than they may need.
There are reasons for this. None of these vaccine candidates have been formally approved yet, and Public Services and Procurement Canada told Global News that all of the vaccine candidate agreements Canada has secured are two-dose vaccines, “with the exception of the Johnson & Johnson candidate, which is a one-dose vaccine.”
Canada has reached agreements with seven different companies on track to produce the world’s first COVID-19 vaccine, the prime minister said in a press release at the end of October.
- Pfizer and BioNtech vaccine candidate BNT162: The federal government has secured a minimum of 20 million doses.
- Moderna vaccine candidate mRNA-1273: Moderna has agreed to supply Canada with up to 56 million doses, to be delivered next year.
- Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline protein subunit vaccine candidate: The country has signed agreements to gain access to up to 72 million doses.
- Johnson & Johnson viral vector vaccine candidate: Canada has secured up to 38 million doses.
- Novavax NVX-
CoV2373 vaccine candidate: Novovax has agreed to supply the country with up to 76 million doses.
- AstraZeneca vaccine candidate AZD1222: Canada has signed an agreement for up to 20 million doses.
- Medicago virus-like particle vaccine candidate: Medicago will supply Canada with up to 76 million doses.
Pfizer and BioNtech said their final results, released Wednesday, proved their vaccine candidate to be 95 per cent effective in preventing COVID-19, while Moderna’s preliminary data from an ongoing study that said its vaccine candidate was 94.5 per cent effective.
The numbers look daunting, but over-purchasing acts as an “insurance policy,” to ensure the country has space to first inoculate those who will need it most, such as essential workers and vulnerable populations, said Barry Pakes, the University of Toronto’s public health and preventative medicine program director.
Maxwell J. Smith, an assistant professor with Western University, told Global News that over-ordering was a precaution, “as it is unlikely that Canada will receive every vaccine dose it has ordered all at once.
“We will still have to tackle the issue of setting priorities for who gets it first,” he said.
“This doesn’t necessarily mean that Canada will end up securing all of those doses as these orders include multiple candidates where some likely won’t come to fruition, but I think it is fair to say that we shouldn’t be too worried about Canada not securing enough vaccine.”
Some vaccines may not pan out, Smith said, and since vaccines are secured in batches, “we will have to vaccinate people sequentially as we get more and more doses.”
“At least, initially, there won’t be enough to vaccinate everyone who wants it,” he said, however, over a longer period of time, “every Canadian who wants a vaccine should be able to get one.”
Other countries, such as the United States and Britain, are on par with Canada’s numbers, although the U.S. surpasses Canada’s population by at least 290 million.
The U.S. has signed a deal to procure 100 million doses of the Moderna vaccine, with the option to purchase an additional 500 million once they were proven to be safe, effective and approved by the country’s Food and Drug Administration.
The country has also inked out an identical deal with Pfizer and BioNtech, and will receive a minimum of 300 million doses from AstraZeneca in exchange for its $1.9 billion investment into the vaccine’s development alongside Oxford University.
The U.S. has additionally invested millions of dollars to procure 100 million doses from Johnson & Johnson, 100 million Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline vaccine doses, as well as 100 million doses developed by Novavax, according to multiple press releases from the country’s Department of Health and Human Services.
Meanwhile, the United Kingdom said in a series of online statements it has secured 355 million doses from seven different vaccine developers.
At the same time, the European Union is on track to procure more than 1.2 billion doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, following its recent deal on Tuesday with CureVac that secured 225 million doses for member states, with the option to purchase 180 million additional doses.
The EU said it has also been in talks with Moderna to purchase 80 million doses of its vaccine candidate, which is expected to come with the opportunity to purchase an additional 80 million doses, in an online statement.
The political and economic union is home to 450 million people from 27 member states, including Germany, France, Italy and Finland.
“With growing numbers of COVID patients across the EU, a safe and effective vaccine is more crucial than ever in putting behind us the pandemic,” said Stella Kyriakides, the union’s Commissioner for Health and Food Safety on Tuesday.
Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, added that its growing number of doses has fulfilled the union’s “commitment to ensuring equitable access to safe, effective and affordable vaccines not only for EU citizens but also for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.”