The pharmaceutical giant announced Friday it would be temporarily reducing the number of vaccines shipped in order to upgrade one of its facilities in Europe.
“We will be back to the original schedule of deliveries to the European Union beginning the week of January 25,” Pfizer said in an online statement late Friday. Arianna Podesta, a spokesperson for the European Commission, confirmed the revised schedule in an emailed statement to Global News.
As of Saturday, Procurement Minister Anita Anand said there were no updates to Pfizer’s announcement, which saw vaccine shipments to Canada will be cut in half for the next four weeks.
Canada’s shipment of Pfizer vaccines for the week of Jan. 18 remains “largely unaffected,” Anand said.
She added the federal government was in touch with Pfizer representatives to “reiterate firmly the importance for Canada to return to our regular delivery schedule as soon as possible.”
“This is an evolving situation,” Anand said.
In response to multiple requests for clarification, Pfizer said “the principal of equity is used when considering allocation of doses worldwide and we expect to have more information in the coming days.”
The move has left many provinces scrambling to adjust their vaccine rollout plans. Some, like Alberta and British Columbia, have publicly expressed concerns over how the delays will affect their vaccine schedules. Manitoba has paused new vaccine appointments until the country is back on schedule.
In Ontario, health officials have extended the amount of time between administering the second dose of the vaccine up to 42 days after receiving the first, while Quebec will allow up to 90 days in between doses.
Anand noted that the delay in shipments will not affect Canada’s long-term goals of having enough doses to vaccinate everyone wants the vaccine by the end of September, saying that “this is a temporary reduction. It’s not a stoppage.”
“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,” she said Friday.
“It’s going to be temporary, it’s not a loss, and we will make up those doses.”
So far, Canada has received about 380,000 doses of Pfizer’s vaccine. Anand added that the additional 20 million doses Canada secured this week are still on track to arrive by Q2.
The news highlighted the importance of adhering to public health guidelines as reiterated by Canada’s top health officials calling for “further intensified” measures while presenting an updated COVID-19 federal modelling on Friday.
If Canada does not find a way to slow the spread of the virus, Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam said the country could be facing 10,000 cases per day by the end of the month. The total number of cases could also increase by almost 100,000 by Jan. 24, and lead to upwards of 2,000 deaths, the federal modelling showed.
Over a short period of time, vaccinations will do little to curb the virus’ transmission. However, Tam said “if we ease measures too soon, the epidemic will resurge even more strongly.”