Canada took another step toward achieving its goal of vaccinating all willing Canadians by September, announcing a significant jump in Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine deliveries for the month of June.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday that the pharmaceutical company confirmed it will “move up” five million doses from later in the summer into June, bringing Canada’s total expected doses from 4.6 million to 9.6 million for that month alone.
“Of course, that’s in addition to the other doses of the Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines,” Trudeau said at a virtual news conference. “A lot of doses being delivered means a lot of people who are able to get their shot.”
Pfizer’s current deliveries of approximately 1.2 million doses per week are expected to continue through to the end of May. Procurement Minister Anita Anand said that will pick up by June, with about 2 million doses expected a week.
The earlier shipment period will boost the number of Pfizer doses received by the end of that month to 18 million doses.
Anand also provided new clarity on forthcoming shipments of AstraZeneca’s vaccine. She confirmed that the 1.5 million doses on loan from the U.S. will arrive in Canada on Tuesday.
On top of that, Anand said AstraZeneca will ship 4.4 million additional doses of its vaccine by the end of June.
Together, she said the agreements put Canada on track to receive at least 44 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of June. Anand said the amount would be “more than enough” for every Canadian to receive at least one shot.
The news, however, comes as concerns about AstraZeneca’s vaccine proliferate in Canada.
On Monday, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommended that AstraZeneca not be used on people under the age of 55. The decision was in response to reports that about three dozen patients in Europe — primarily younger women — developed blood clots after receiving the vaccine.
NACI’s vice-chair said the committee had “determined there is substantial uncertainty” around the benefit of providing the vaccine to those under 55 given the potential adverse effect. While rare, the reaction — known as vaccine-induced prothrombotic immune thrombocytopenia (VIPIT) — has occurred between four and 16 days after the patient received the vaccine.
Officials said anyone who received the shot more than 20 days ago and hasn’t experienced any adverse effects has no reason to be concerned. Those 55 and older are still recommended to receive the vaccine.
The latest recommendations spurred suspensions in many provinces.
Canada’s top doctor, Theresa Tam, reiterated that this is a “precautionary approach.”
As for Johnson & Johnson, Anand revealed that shipments of the single-shot vaccine would start to arrive in Canada at the end of April. Anand said the exact delivery schedule is still being finalized but that discussions with the company continue.
Canada has pre-ordered 10 million doses of the vaccine, with options to order up to 28 million more. It’s unclear how many doses will begin arriving at the end of April. Previously, officials said an initial 10 million doses would arrive before September.
Regardless, the vaccine totals that will see Canada through to the end of June — as touted by Anand and Trudeau — do not include numbers for Johnson & Johnson. In other words, once a schedule is materialized, the Johnson & Johnson single-shot vaccine could bring Canadians closer to vaccination even sooner.
Despite the news of more vaccine doses, Trudeau and federal officials cautioned Canadians against letting their guard down.
Canada’s top doctor, Theresa Tam, warned that rising hospitalizations and ICU admissions reflect how the pandemic is worsening in parts of the country. Driven by variants of the virus that are not only more contagious but, in some cases, more deadly, Tam said COVID-19 is spreading faster in many parts of Canada.
She said cases of COVID-19 variants have increased 64 per cent over the past week — something she described as “the most concerning.” Canada has logged more than 9,000 variant cases in total, with the B.1.1.7 version, which originated in the U.K, accounting for the vast majority.
In the past, Tam has described Canada’s current pandemic climate as the “race between vaccines and variants.” She’s said Canada’s vaccination effort is only now starting to ramp up, so Canadians still have to do their part and abide by public health measures to ensure the pandemic can be kept under control in the meantime.
— with files from the Canadian PressView link »