Federal government officials are working with the pharmaceutical company to “clear up the timeline,” but remain “confident that Moderna will be able to fulfill their obligations,” Dominic LeBlanc, the Intergovernmental Affairs minister, said Friday at a federal COVID-19 update.
He said the dialogue with Moderna has so far been “reassuring,” and that federal Procurement Minister Anita Anand — tasked with getting shots into the country — will speak with company executives about the matter next week.
“The government is absolutely on track to ensure every Canadian who is eligible and wants a vaccine, including eligible younger people as the criteria evolve, will get one. We’re confident that will be the case for every Canadian by the end of September,” he said.
“The only challenge between now and the end of June is those precise arrival dates of those Moderna shipments.”
That uncertainty has led the government to revise projections — perhaps temporarily — on how many doses will be in Canada by the end of June.
Brig.-Gen. Krista Brodie, who is now leading Canada’s vaccine rollout, told a press conference Thursday that Canada is on track to deliver 40 million doses to provinces and territories by that timeline, down from the 48 to 50 million it was expecting.
The Canadian government — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau included — has widely touted the 48 to 50 million figure as a key goal in its national vaccination effort. It’s something both Trudeau and Anand have reiterated at COVID-19 briefings in recent weeks.
Brodie said Thursday the number of doses delivered will be “around the 40 million point, maybe slightly lower, slightly higher.” She said number change speaks to “either doses that have been delivered or orders that have been confirmed.”
LeBlanc reiterated that calculation strategy Friday.
“The reason the Public Health Agency of Canada doesn’t include those precise numbers is because until we have a firm delivery date from Moderna over the next few weeks… They won’t be included in that total,” he said.
“We recognize obviously the desire of all Canadians to know how quickly those will arrive, so that those waiting for a first dose — or people like me, who will get a second dose at some point — will be able to have those appointments booked.”
By contrast, Pfizer-BioNTech has been and continues to offer reliable deliveries of its vaccine to Canada. The company has committed to deliver two million doses every week in May and 2.4 million doses every week in June. The government also expects another one million doses of AstraZeneca in June.
Moderna has had setbacks with shipments to Canada in the past. In February, Moderna sent about 180,000 doses instead of the expected 230,400. In early April, Moderna again indicated that a batch of 855,000 doses would be delayed by a week. Those doses did later arrive in the country.
Moderna has been working to ramp up its capacity, which has hampered some of its ability to offer clarity to Canada and other countries.
LeBlanc said Canada still expects Moderna to be a “key part of Canada’s vaccination plan.”
“We remain confident that some of the supply chain challenges and quality assurance checks and challenges around those processes Moderna had will be worked out in the coming weeks.”
–With files from the Canadian Press