Canadian hospitals will be among the first facilities to give out the coronavirus vaccine, potentially as early as next week, according to Maj. Gen. Dany Fortin, a former NATO commander leading the vaccine distribution process.
Speaking at a media conference Tuesday, Fortin said when Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine arrives in Canada (potentially next week), the provinces have chosen 14 initial locations to administer them.
“Those places were chosen by the provinces, they meet certain criteria… some will be in hospitals,” Fortin said in French. “The provinces have chosen additional sites and over the coming days and weeks, we will start to activate those sites. They were chosen based on the conditions laid out by Pfizer so the vaccines can be administered as quickly as possible to Canadians.”
Fortin added that the initial 14 delivery sites were chosen in order to be “close to the population that will receive the vaccines.”
Delivering the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is complicated because it needs to be stored at super-chilled temperatures: about -70 C. However, the vaccine is stable at normal refrigerator temperatures, between 2 and 8 C, for a few days, meaning it can be stored locally.
This news comes one day after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada has secured an agreement to receive its first batch of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine before the end of the year — up to 249,000 doses.
Pending Health Canada approval, “Canadians will be getting vaccinated starting next week,” Trudeau said.
Canada’s chief public health officer also added on Tuesday that the first doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine are likely to be given only to people who can physically be at one of the 14 delivery sites.
Dr. Theresa Tam says experience moving the vaccine around might eventually allow it to be taken to other sites but acknowledged this likely means many long-term care home residents won’t get the initial doses.
Long-term care residents and staff are among those who are to be prioritized for the first doses of vaccines but Tam says most residents can’t easily be moved to another site.
Canada’s first doses of Pfizer’s vaccine are to come from lots produced at the company’s manufacturing plant in Belgium.
A Pfizer spokeswoman told The Canadian Press that the company is asking for the delivery limitation.
“For the initial stages of vaccination, I can confirm that we are asking for vaccines to be administered only at the first vaccination points,” said Christina Antoniou.
She said where the vaccine can be injected is “part of ongoing discussions” with provincial governments, who are in charge of getting the vaccine into patients. However she noted Pfizer’s actual contract for the COVID-19 vaccine is with the federal government.
“Pfizer, the Public Health Agency of Canada and the provinces are working together to finalize preparations at the first point of use sites this week, including training on how to handle the product,” she said. “These are the sites identified by the federal government’s National Operations Centre for initial vaccination of priority populations.”
— With files from the Canadian Press