There could be enough COVID-19 vaccine to give a single dose to every adult in Canada who wants one by the summer, according to Canadian officials handling the rollout.
Maj-Gen. Dany Fortin said Thursday that if other approved vaccines are added to the mix and if they are administered as rapidly as possible, the rollout “will meet the target of vaccinating or offering the vaccines to as many people as possible in the summer timeframe or by fall.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said Canada’s ultimate goal has been to provide all Canadians who want a shot by the end of September. However, procurement numbers show there are more than enough doses from Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca coming to pass the one-dose-per-person target by the end of June.
Despite positive indications on delivery forecasts, Fortin said he still wanted to stay somewhat “prudent” with that timeframe.
“I would remind you that while there’s no indication of disruption of fluctuations in production, it is a pandemic with global demand on vaccines,” he said. “They are being produced as rapidly as possible but are always subject to fluctuation.”
Fortin said the goal will also rely on whether provinces and territories follow the advice to delay second doses up to four months.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunizations (NACI) put forth recommendations in recent weeks that jurisdictions extend the interval of the second dose for up to four months, particularly as supplies are still limited. The NACI said extending the dosing interval will help “opportunities for protection of the entire adult population within a short timeframe.”
“That was put into the context of the relative scarcity of vaccines,” said Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy public health officer.
“Depending on the rhythm and flow of vaccines coming into the country, there will be a lot of moving parts, but hopefully in a few months, we’ll be in a spot where every Canadian will have received that one dose and also being able to offer that second dose for those vaccines where there is a two-dose regimen.”
Some deliveries still unclear
Canada has been lagging in its vaccination efforts, thanks in part to lingering production and delivery problems, but those bottlenecks are beginning to clear.
Health Canada says more than 8.5 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are scheduled to arrive in Canada over the next eight weeks.
Pfizer-BioNTech alone is on tap to deliver more than one million doses each week for the foreseeable future.
Fortin also provided more clarity on what’s expected for Moderna through the spring. He said Canada should receive 846,000 doses throughout the week of March 22.
From there, Moderna’s deliveries will arrive on a two-week basis, instead of three. So by April, Canada will receive 855,00 doses the week of April 5 and approximately 1.2 million doses the week of April 19.
The delivery schedules for the other two approved vaccines — AstraZeneca’s shot and Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine — have still yet to materialize.
The Serum Institute of India is expected to ship another million doses of its version of the AstraZeneca vaccine next month, with an additional 500,000 in May, though it is not clear when those will arrive. Canada has also ordered 20 million doses directly from the company, manufactured in the United States, though the timeline is still unconfirmed.
The delivery of those doses has been put under the spotlight White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki confirmed that Canada has indeed asked the U.S. for help in procuring vaccine doses.
AstraZeneca has said it has 30 million doses of its vaccine ready to be distributed in the U.S. — but the vaccine has not been authorized for use there.
A deal is reportedly in the works to share 1.5 million doses of the vaccine with Canada, Global News and Reuters confirmed on Thursday. While it’s still being finalized, it’s likely to be announced publicly in the coming days.
Fortin and Joelle Paquette, the director-general for vaccines at Public Services and Procurement Canada, were repeatedly pressed by reporters Thursday about the lack of details surrounding the delivery of AstraZeneca’s shots.
Fortin said Procurement Canada officials are in “close collaboration with government partners and in close discussions with the American government.”
Both Fortin and Paquette pointed to the yet-to-be-confirmed delivery schedules with AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson but did not explicitly address Canada’s reported request for help.
“Right now we have very strong relationships with the United States,” said Paquette. “We’re in discussions and we will give an update once we have more information.”
Discussions with Johnson & Johnson for its vaccine delivery schedule are still ongoing, Fortin said, though 10 million doses are expected “in the coming months.”
Nationwide, approximately 610,071 people, or 1.6 per cent of the population, have been fully vaccinated, as of early March 18. Almost seven per cent of Canadians have received at least one dose, said Njoo.
Njoo said 42 per cent of Canadians over the age of 80 and 12 per cent of those between 70 and 79 are now vaccinated, calling it “encouraging news.”
— with files from The Canadian Press and Reuters