Canada’s procurement minister is urging drugmaker Pfizer-BioNTech to get the country’s COVID-19 vaccine delivery schedule back on track as soon as possible, as the two provinces hardest hit by the pandemic warned slower shipments will mean changes to their respective game plans.
Anita Anand said she understands and shares Canadians’ concerns about the drug company’s decision to delay international vaccine shipments for four weeks to upgrade production facilities in Europe.
“We are once again in touch with representatives from Pfizer to reiterate firmly the importance for Canada to return to our regular delivery schedule as soon as possible,” she said on Twitter Saturday. “Pfizer assured us that it is deploying all efforts to do just that.”
She noted that shipments for the upcoming week will be largely unaffected, and said the government will provide updates as they become available.
Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams, said the delay will likely have an effect on the province, though the full impact of the move is not yet known.
“We understand that this change in supply could see deliveries reduced by at least half for Canada in the coming weeks,” Williams said in a statement Saturday.
“We will assess and take appropriate action to ensure we can continue providing our most vulnerable with vaccines.”
In Ontario, long-term care residents, caregivers and staff who already received their first dose of Pfizer’s vaccine will receive their second dose between 21 and 27 days later, no more than a week longer than originally planned.
But that time frame will be longer for anyone else receiving the Pfizer vaccine, with second doses being delivered anywhere from 21 to 42 days after the initial shot.
Quebec Health Minister Christian Dube said Friday the reduced shipments mean that 86,775 of the 176,475 doses of the vaccine expected by Feb. 8 won’t be delivered as planned.
Officials are establishing a new distribution plan, but the Quebec Health Department said the strategy to immunize as many people as possible within priority groups will be maintained, with a delay of up to 90 days for the second dose.
Officials in Saskatchewan said COVID-19 vaccinations will continue as doses are received, with Premier Scott Moe telling reporters Friday that the province’s strategy for the two-dose regime depends on steady shipments.
That province says 2,857 vaccine doses were administered Friday — a record to date — with a shipment of 4,900 doses of Moderna vaccine also arriving and set to be distributed.
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said in a statement that given the current trajectory of the epidemic, cases will continue to rise unless there’s significant progress in interrupting spread.
The latest forecasts suggest the country could be dealing with 10,000 new daily cases by the end of January. Meanwhile, hospitalizations and deaths, which tend be one to several weeks behind a spike in the disease, are still on the rise.
For the seven-day period ending Jan. 14, Canada averaged 4,705 hospitalizations across the country with 875 patients requiring intensive care treatment. During the same period, an average of 137 deaths were reported daily.
On Saturday, Ontario topped 3,000 cases and added another 51 deaths linked to the virus.
In Quebec, 2,225 new infections were reported along with 67 deaths attributed to the virus, pushing the province over the 9,000 death mark since the beginning of the pandemic.
In the east, New Brunswick continues to report the highest daily COVID-19 cases, with 27 new cases reported Saturday.
The province’s 267 active cases is the highest in the Atlantic Canada, where cases have remained relatively low.
Saskatchewan reported 270 new COVID-19 cases and two further deaths on Saturday.
The Canadian Press
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