Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, who oversees vaccine logistics for the Public Health Agency of Canada, broke the news Thursday that deliveries of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to Canada in the first week of February would be 79,000 doses — only one-fifth of what was promised.
Canada won’t be the only country hit by the delay though, with longer waits expected for countries in Europe and Mexico bracing to not to get any doses at all for nearly three weeks — all due to a temporary slowdown in production after the vaccine companies announced an expansion to their plant in Belgium last week.
Deliveries from Moderna, the other company whose vaccine is approved for use in Canada, will not be affected.
In a tweet Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that he was assured in a conversation with the CEO of Pfizer Global that Canada would receive four million doses of their COVID-19 vaccine by the end of March.
In total, Canada is set to receive a combined six million doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines — an amount totaling to vaccinating three million Canadians should they follow their respective two-dose regimens.
News of the worsening delay also comes amid a stark warning from the country’s top doctor, who expects cases of severe illness from COVID-19 will continue to rise in the coming days — ultimately leading to more hospitalizations and deaths.
“Strong and sustained efforts are needed to reduce heavy demands on the health-care system,” wrote Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam in a statement Thursday.
“Without this, the ability to continue with the present level of elective procedures will become increasingly difficult in heavily impacted areas.”
The warning comes as Canada’s cases of COVID-19 tally at 731,450 following Thursday’s new infections. Another 160 deaths were added as well, pushing the country’s death toll from the virus to 18,622.
Of Canada’s total infections, over 645,720 patients have since recovered from the virus however while over 20,925,000 tests and 738,864 vaccine doses have been administered to date.
Ontario added another 2,632 cases on Thursday, as well as another 46 deaths. Total cases there now stand at 247,564, with Ontario set to overtake Quebec this week as the province with the highest number of confirmed cases.
Quebec recorded another 1,624 infections, as well as another 66 fatalities. The death toll in the province remains the highest in Canada, with over 9,270 Quebecers succumbing to the virus to date.
British Columbia added another 564 cases and 15 more deaths on Thursday. The province has also registered a total of 559 “epi-linked” cases, who are people that were in close contact with confirmed cases and display symptoms of the virus, but were never formally tested for it. A total of eight cases included in today’s count are considered “epi-linked.”
Alberta added 678 more infections on Thursday, pushing the provincial caseload to 119,114. The province marked a grim milestone on Thursday as well, with its death toll passing the 1,500 mark after another 16 deaths were announced.
In Saskatchewan, another 226 cases were reported Thursday. The province also recorded its highest ever daily death toll from the virus after 13 more deaths were announced by public health officials there. A total of 239 COVID-19 related deaths have occurred in Saskatchewan since the beginning of the pandemic.
Officials in Manitoba Thursday announced an easing in COVID-19 restrictions, with most in the province now able to get haircuts and buy non-essential items in stores come Saturday.
Health officials there also recorded another five COVID-19 deaths on Thursday, as well as 198 new cases of COVID-19.
In Atlantic Canada, both Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador added a single case each, while New Brunswick reported another 32 infections. Prince Edward Island did not add any new cases on Thursday.
Both the Yukon and Nunavut did not report any cases on Thursday. Global News’ tally also recorded a single new case in the Northwest Territories, though the infection was originally identified on Wednesday. N.W.T.’s total caseload stands at 31 confirmed infections.
Worldwide cases of the novel coronavirus continue to spread, with global total infections now standing at 97,425,000 according to Johns Hopkins University. A total of 2,087,820 people have also succumbed to the virus, with the U.S., India and Brazil continuing to lead in both cases and deaths.
— With files from the Canadian Press