Canadian officials confirmed Thursday that fewer doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine will arrive later this month, but said they don’t know why the company has again reduced its shipments.
Just days ago, Moderna gave Canada yet another vaccine headache, joining Pfizer. The Public Health Agency of Canada revealed the drugmaker would only send about 78 per cent of Canada’s expected allotment of vaccines during the first week of February.
That’s about 180,000 doses instead of 230,400.
Those 180,000 doses arrived Thursday morning, according to Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, who is overseeing logistical planning for Canada’s vaccine distribution efforts.
But it’s unclear how many more shots will be delivered to Canada, and why the shipments have shrunk in the first place. Moderna delivers shipments to Canada every three weeks.
Fortin gently pointed the finger at Moderna.
“We do not have visibility at this time on the next shipments,” he told reporters. “That’s a real limitation in the short term. I completely understand it’s making it more difficult for provinces to prepare clinics and distribution sites.”
He was unable to provide an estimate of the quantities but said he “does not expect” to receive the initially projected 249,000 for the week of Feb. 22.
Despite this, Fortin maintains that Canada is still on track to receive two million doses of Moderna’s vaccine by the end of March to meet the government’s vaccination targets.
“They haven’t shared the specifics of the challenges that they may experience in their yields or in their production,” he said of the federal government’s communication with the company.
“Moderna has not mentioned production problems or problems at the plant,” he continued in French. “Moderna is facing growing demand, there are global challenges… There is no indication there’s a major problem.”
Pfizer was the first to cause a headache for Canada and other countries anxiously waiting for shipments of the precious vaccines but provided its global customers with a reason.
The company said shipments of its vaccine would be significantly lower than expected due to plant upgrades at its European facility in Belgium.
Canada receives the bulk of its vaccines from factories in Europe.
Fortin expressed confidence that Moderna will still make good on its promise to Canada — “there’s no reason to doubt that they won’t” — but said forecasted allocations for the vaccine, used by the provinces, would be removed for the week of Feb. 22 to 28.
Global News has reached out to Moderna for comment about the delays Wednesday, and to determine how many doses the country is expected to receive in February, but did not immediately hear back.
“I think its important to reiterate once again, as I’ve said since December, that we are in a period where quantities are limited,” Fortin said.
“There isn’t a ravine we need to cross,” he continued in French. “It is disappointing to see this obstacle, but it is temporary.”
The hazy timeline for Moderna vaccines wasn’t the only thing the federal officials were unable to answer at a virtual news conference Thursday.
When asked about the imminent regulatory decision on the AstraZeneca vaccine, neither Fortin nor Canada’s deputy chief public health officer Dr. Howard Njoo could identify or provide any detail on whether the candidate will be included in delivery schedules.
Njoo also redirected questions to Health Canada about Pfizer’s request to pull six doses from a single vaccine vial and whether the stall in the AstraZeneca approval stems from data surrounding its efficacy in seniors.
— with files from The Canadian Press and Global News’ Hannah Jackson