Shipments over the next four weeks will be reduced by an average of 50 per cent, added Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, who is leading Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine logistics.
This is because the company is scaling up its European manufacturing capacity – a move that will impact the vaccine’s production for a “short period.”
“This expansion work means that Pfizer is temporarily reducing deliveries to all countries receiving vaccine manufactured at its European facility – and that includes Canada,” said Anand.
She said, however, that this won’t impact Canada’s long-term vaccination timeline.
“This is a temporary delay and we remain on track to have enough approved vaccines for everyone who wishes to be vaccinated by the end of September 2021,” Anand said.
To date, Canada has received about 380,000 doses of the vaccine and was on track to more than double that figure before the end of the month. In February, Canada was also expecting just shy of two million doses to be delivered.
However, those deliveries are no longer guaranteed – though Anand was optimistic that Pfizer will be able to catch up after this delay, given that the delay is happening so Pfizer can boost its manufacturing capacity.
“Pfizer believes that by the end of March, it will be able to catch up – such that we will be on track for the total committed doses for Q1,” she explained.
Fortin said that the brunt of the impact of this delivery reduction will be felt in late January.
“Our shipments next week are minimally impacted. The most profound impact will be in the week of January 25. The allocations will then begin to scale back up in…the first two weeks of February, and then return to what we expected for in February and onwards,” Fortin said.
He said Pfizer has made it clear that they intend to “offset the impact of their production dip.”
Meanwhile, the ongoing vaccine production won’t be entirely halted as Pfizer works to boost its manufacturing capacity.
“This is a temporary reduction. It’s not a stoppage,” Anand said.
“So we are going to see continued vaccines coming in from Pfizer and of course Moderna over the next weeks, but there will be a reduction in doses, and that is the purpose of my being here. It’s going to be temporary, it’s not a loss, and we will make up those doses.”
Both Fortin and Anand said Pfizer has pledged to start ramping up its delivery schedule once again in February.
“Pfizer has told us that those doses will continue to arrive in greater numbers throughout the month of February and March, so that we are on track for the end of March, as I already said,” Anand said.
She added that the additional 20 million Pfizer doses Canada had secured this week will still be arriving during Q2, as previously promised.
Fortin said that in light of these assurances, the government’s planning assumptions haven’t significantly changed.
“It was very clear that we are still correct in our planning assumption to receive approximately 4 million doses of Pfizer by 31 March, for a total of 6 million doses of both Health Canada-approved vaccines,” he said.
In a bid to further quell concerns about the delay, Anand reminded Canadians of the government’s procurement strategy. So far, Canada has agreements with seven different vaccine manufacturers, two of which have received regulatory approval.
“Such delays and issues are to be expected when global supply chains are stretched well beyond their limits,” Anand said.
“It was with precisely these types of issues in mind that Canada pursued the aggressive procurement strategy that we did.”
She said the approach of ensuring “diversity and volume” has given Canada “flexibility and margins” to stay on track with its vaccine delivery schedule.
“As I said earlier, this is a temporary situation and it does not impact our government’s goal of having enough approved vaccines for every Canadian that wants to be vaccinated by the end of this coming September.”