Nova Scotia will receive its largest single shipment of the COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech next week but the shipment from Moderna will by almost half, as the province will send 2,900 doses to Canada’s northern territories.
Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Robert Strang, said the province was expected to receive 5,900 doses of the Moderna vaccine next week but the federal government has re-allocated 2,900 of those doses to help with a vaccination program being set up in remote northern regions of the country.
“Yesterday, we learned that the federal government is re-allocating some of Canada’s Moderna supply to our northern territories, while we know this is concerning to hear, we also understand the federal government’s rationale,” said Strang. “It is to address the complexities and unique challenges with our northern neighbours and to do that, they need the support and co-operation of all provinces.”
Nova Scotia receives shipments of the Moderna vaccine every three weeks and Strang anticipates the reallocation will affect the next shipment in March.
But Premier Stephen McNeil said this has always been the plan and something all provinces had agreed to in the early planning stages of the vaccine rollout.
“It was agreed by provinces that the Moderna vaccine when it started to come in would be used to help deal with the issues of supply in northern Canada,” said McNeil. “It really is being shipped on a per-capita basis, but in northern Canada the only one being used is Moderna and that was talked about way back in December.”
Strang said the reduction in Moderna supply will temporarily impact the vaccination of long-term care residents, as the province only uses the Moderna vaccine for immunizing its long-term care residents because the Pfizer product requires stricter deep freezing handling conditions. The province will look at ways it can incorporate the Pfizer product in the long-term care plan.
“We know that this reduction will slow down our rollout of vaccine into our long-term care facilities but it will not stop entirely and it will not impact the administration of second doses when people become eligible,” said Strang.
Nova Scotia is set to receive 8,775 doses of the Pfizer vaccine next week, marking the largest shipment the province has received to date.
Despite the supply chain issues and the diversion of vaccines to other jurisdictions, McNeil and Strang both said the province will continue to work with the federal government’s procurement program to secure vaccines.
On Thursday, Manitoba agreed to purchase two million doses of vaccine from Canadian biotechnology firm Providence Therapeutics, based in Alberta.
Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister has been critical of the federal government’s COVID-19 vaccine procurement plan, criticizing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for delays in deliveries of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine.
Strang said Nova Scotia has no plan to go alone and to secure any vaccine, saying they will always work with the federal government.
“I was surprised to hear Manitoba do that,” said Strang. “All our vaccines go through a common procurement process including the COVID vaccine.”
Strang says any domestic vaccine being manufactured is “many, many months away” from being approved for use by Health Canada and emphasized that the province’s long-term vaccination is still on target, despite any vaccine diversions.