Procurement Minister Anita Anand said while the exact delivery schedule is still being finalized, she confirmed deliveries are expected to begin at the end of April.
This is the first time officials have provided clarity about when the vaccine would arrive, which was approved about three weeks ago.
The single-shot vaccine was the fourth official shot to get Health Canada’s approval and has been widely seen as a key tool in getting more Canadians vaccinated, more rapidly.
Canada has pre-ordered 10 million doses of the vaccine, with options to order up to 28 million more.
Previously, officials said an initial 10 million doses are expected by September. It’s unclear how many doses will begin delivering at the end of April.
However, Johnson & Johnson has faced production problems in recent weeks, particularly in Europe and the U.S. Several European countries, where the vaccine isn’t yet authorized, have said they don’t expect as many doses of the vaccine in April as originally planned.
But for Canada, the accelerated arrival of Johnson & Johnson may only be a bonus for the country’s rollout.
Between Canada’s latest agreement with Pfizer to “move up” five million vaccines to June, and the expected arrival of 4.4 million AstraZeneca doses also in June, Anand said there will be “more than enough” for willing Canadians to receive at least one dose well before September.
Along with the expected Moderna shipments, those agreements put Canada on track to receive at least 44 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of June.
Global trials found the shot to be 66 per cent effective at mitigating moderate to severe illness and 85 per cent effective at preventing the most serious outcomes. Notably, there were no deaths among participants who had received the J&J vaccine and no hospital admissions after 28 days post-vaccine.
The shot is also significantly easier to ship and store, as it can be kept in a refrigerator (between 2C and 8C) for at least three months — much longer than the Moderna vaccine — rather than a freezer.
Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious disease expert with McMaster University in Hamilton, said the Johnson & Johnson vaccines will “speed up” Canada’s vaccination rollout, but ultimately it won’t change that much.
Chagla said the amount Canada is set to receive “is not going to necessarily change the trajectory that much.”
“Even what we get in April is probably going to be a small amount relative given that Johnson and Johnson is currently going to the United States, a small amount is going to Europe, now South Africa has now signed a big contract for it too,” he said. “We are part of the global demand for this vaccine in that sense.”
Ultimately, Chagla said the vaccines will help, but the Johnson & Johnson shots will not be the ones that “necessarily gets us to mass vaccination.”
— with files from Global News’ Hannah Jackson and the Canadian Press