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LeBlanc: vaccine rollout criticism from provinces ‘a bit simplistic,’ Canada remains ‘on track’

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Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc says that Canada is “on track” with its coronavirus vaccine rollout, adding that provinces that claim they’re running out of doses are being “a bit simplistic.”

His comments come after Ontario Premier Doug Ford warned the province is “running out” of COVID-19 vaccine doses, claiming its Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine supply is slated to run dry at the end of next week.

Read more: Doug Ford says Ontario will run out of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines by end of next week

“If you knew you had 200,000 in a week, how sincere is it to say, ‘Oh my God, at the end of the week we don’t have any more vaccines?’ Of course you don’t, because there are more coming next week, and then the week after there are even more,” LeBlanc told The West Block‘s Mercedes Stephenson in an interview.

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“So the word ‘run out,’ I think, is a bit simplistic. Canada is getting, in an aggressive and effective way, as many doses as quickly as we can.”

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Coronavirus: Ontario will be out of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines by the end of next week, Ford says – Jan 8, 2021

LeBlanc added that Ottawa is “not actually behind schedule,” pointing out that Canada wasn’t initially supposed to receive any vaccine doses in December.

“We were able to get almost half a million doses from Pfizer in December. The Moderna doses have also come sooner than we had been expecting and that the premiers had been expecting,” LeBlanc said.

“So I’m very confident that over the coming weeks you’re going to see a very considerable scale up across the country in terms of provinces immunizing their citizens.”

His claims, which pour a little water in Ford’s wine, are backed up by the numbers.

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Ontario is on track to receive 80,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine next week, and will receive that same number of doses every week for the rest of January. Another 56,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine will also arrive in the province on Monday, in addition to the 53,000 doses of the Moderna jab that arrived at the end of December.

Read more: Canada’s September vaccine target could hinge on other approvals

LeBlanc said the government is also hoping Pfizer and Moderna will deliver some doses before expected, as was the case with the December arrivals.

“We’re hopeful that we will see, again, advance doses or doses that were scheduled for March arriving in February, doses that may have been coming in February, arriving in January. So obviously that’s our hope,” he said.

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LeBlanc’s comments come after Trudeau previously expressed his frustration at the pace of the vaccine rollout.

“All Canadians, including me, are frustrated to see vaccines in freezers and not in people’s arms,” Trudeau said in a Monday press conference.

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By Friday, however, Trudeau had changed his tune — stating that the government is “ensuring better efficacy” on delivering ample vaccinations “every day.”

He explained that more than 124,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine have been delivered to 68 locations across Canada in the last week, and over 208,000 are expected to be delivered across the country each week for the rest of January.

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Some provinces to speed up coronavirus vaccine rollout – Jan 5, 2021

When it comes to Moderna’s jab, more than 171,000 doses will be delivered to the provinces and territories by the end of next week, according to Trudeau. That puts Canada on track to deliver more than 1.3 million doses of both vaccines by the end of the month.

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However, deliveries will “continue to fluctuate on a regular basis,” Gen. Dany Fortin, who is heading up the logistics of Canada’s vaccine rollout, warned on Friday.

“It needs experience and this is increasing every day,” he said. “I believe the provinces and territories will considerably ramp up their ability to distribute the vaccines in the coming months.”

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While Fortin said the supply from now to March is “limited and steady,” by April, he expects a “significant ramp up” that will continue through the rest of the second quarter of the year.

It’s a message LeBlanc echoed in his interview.

“We wanted a series of potential (vaccine) options to get as quickly as possible, as many doses as possible, to Canada and then, of course, send them directly to the provinces for administration,” LeBlanc said.

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“So that process is well underway. And as I say, it’s going to increase in some cases exponentially over the coming weeks and well into the Spring.”

— With files from Rachael D’Amore