Canada is “certainly in the top five” on the list of countries to receive doses of a novel coronavirus vaccine the country’s minister of intergovernmental affairs says.
Dominic LeBlanc made the comments during an interview with The West Block’s Mercedes Stephenson airing on Sunday.
LeBlanc said Canada has “millions of doses” under contract, adding that the first six million doses — enough for three million Canadians requiring two doses each — will begin arriving in early January.
According to LeBlanc, the federal government has held 29 meetings with provincial and territorial health authorities since May to discuss logistics.
“But that work will obviously massively ramp up over the coming days as we get ready for the arrival of the vaccine,” he said.
Asked why Canada will only see a couple million doses of a potential vaccine immediately, while other countries could vaccinate massive portions of their populations, LeBlanc pointed to a lack of manufacturing capabilities in the country.
He said the bio-manufacturing capacity in Canada has “eroded over the last 20 years,” pointing to the closure of the AstraZeneca facilities in Montreal in 2007 and 2012 during Stephen Harper’s time as prime minister.
While more than 400 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines are on order, the opposition parties have raised concerns that many of the contracts the federal government signed were late, putting Canada further down in the queue.
What is “important,” LeBlanc said, is that the federal government was “aggressive and robust in procuring binding agreements” so that when a vaccine is deemed safe for use, Canadians will be vaccinated “efficiently and effectively.”
Speaking at a press conference on Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government is working “extremely hard” to deliver a vaccine “as quickly and as safely as possible.”
Trudeau said “if all goes according to plan,” a majority of Canadians could be vaccinated by next September, putting the country in a “very good stead.”
The chairman of Moderna said Canada is near the front of the line to receive 20 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine it pre-ordered.
Noubar Afeyan confirmed to CBC that because Canada has committed to pre-purchase its doses before other jurisdictions, it will get its supply first.
“The people who are willing to move early on with even less proof of the efficacy have assured the amount of supply they were willing to sign up to,” he said.
“In the case of Canada, that number is about 20 million doses. But the Canadian government, like others, have also reserved the ability to increase that amount. And those discussions are ongoing,” he added.
LeBlanc’s remarks come as the country continues to struggle to contain the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
On Saturday the country saw 5,757 new coronavirus infections and 82 new fatalities.
-With files from The Canadian Press