Canada won’t get any Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines next week

The latest:

Questions continued to swirl on Tuesday around COVID-19 vaccine deployment as Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, who is leading the logistics of the vaccine rollout, said Canada will not get any doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at all next week.

Fortin, vice-president of operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, said this week’s shipment is almost one-fifth smaller than expected. Pfizer confirmed last week it would temporarily reduce its COVID-19 vaccine deliveries to Europe and Canada while it upgrades production capacity.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he’s still confident the country is on track to vaccinate every Canadian who wants a shot by September. “This situation with the Pfizer delay is temporary. Our vaccination objectives for the first quarter of the year, January to March, are not changing,” Trudeau said.

WATCH | Federal officials say Pfizer vaccine deliveries will be suspended:

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin spoke to reporters Tuesday during a virtual press briefing. 2:11

Procurement Minister Anita Anand said she has spoken to Pfizer and does not expect any more interruptions to its Canadian deliveries after mid-February. Anand says Pfizer is contractually obligated to ship four million doses to Canada by the end of March.

Canada expects its shipments from Pfizer to be larger than previously expected from the middle of February until the end of March to make up for smaller shipments over the next month.

Ontario officials said the province’s weekly deliveries of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine will be cut by as much as 80 per cent over the next month due to a production slowdown at the pharmaceutical company. The provincial government said on Tuesday that shipments are expected to get back to normal levels in late February and early March.

The province also ordered Toronto to pause its vaccine clinic at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre following Tuesday’s inoculations due to the vaccine shortages announced earlier in the day, according to a statement from the City of Toronto. The clinic was previously directed to close after Friday.

Premier Doug Ford appealed to U.S. president-elect Joe Biden to share one million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine that’s manufactured in Michigan. Ford also urged Trudeau to ramp up pressure on the company to deliver more of the shots to Canada.

WATCH | Exasperated Ontario premier ready to badger Pfizer for vaccine:

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said he’s angry that other countries will still get the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine while supplies to Canada slow down. ‘We’ve got to be on these guys like a blanket,’ said Ford of Pfizer. 1:37

Ontario still expects to meet its goal of providing the first dose of the vaccine to all long-term care residents, workers and essential caregivers in the province by Feb. 15. Officials said the province has already given the first dose to all long-term care residents, workers and essential caregivers in hot spot regions, including Toronto, Peel Region and York Region.

The province reported 1,913 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and 46 more deaths linked to the virus, though Health Minister Christine Elliott said the case number is likely lower than expected because of a technical problem.


What’s happening across Canada

As of 3 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Canada had reported 718,828 cases of COVID-19, with 71,870 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 18,239.

In Atlantic Canada, Prince Edward Island had two new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, while there were no new cases reported in Newfoundland and Labrador.

New Brunswick reported 31 new cases and one new death, while Nova Scotia announced four new cases.

Quebec reported a significant drop in new COVID-19 infections on Tuesday with 1,386 new cases. The province also reported 55 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus. Hospitalizations in the hard-hit province stood at 1,500, with 212 people in intensive care units, according to health figures published Tuesday.

Premier François Legault called on the federal government to ban all non-essential flights to Canada. Legault said he’s worried that people travelling to vacation destinations will bring new variants of COVID-19 back to the province.

While the premier says it may be difficult to determine which flights are essential, he says it’s clear that flights to sunny destinations are non-essential.

Manitoba reported 111 new COVID-19 cases and 11 deaths on Tuesday. With numbers decreasing in recent weeks, the provincial government is proposing to ease several restrictions on business openings and public gatherings by the end of the week.

The possible changes, subject to public consultation, include allowing non-essential stores, hair salons and barbershops to reopen with capacity limits. Another proposed change would ease the ban on social gatherings inside private homes to allow two visitors at a time.

Saskatchewan announced 309 new COVID-19 cases and six deaths on Tuesday.

In British Columbia, Health Minister Adrian Dix said the province will adjust its vaccination plans in light of the news that Pfizer-BioNTech will not send any doses to Canada next week.

Dix said the province had expected to receive about 5,800 Pfizer-BioNTech doses, a relatively small amount compared with the roughly 25,000 it’s supposed to receive the week after. But the 5,800 doses are still “very significant” to B.C. and any reductions are “obviously disappointing,” he said. 

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said at a COVID-19 briefing earlier on Tuesday that the number of people experiencing severe illness is increasing.

“There are an average of about 4,775 individuals with COVID-19 being treated in Canadian hospitals,” Tam said as she provided updated figures and new details on average new cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

“Over 880 of them are in critical care and over 140 deaths are being reported each day.”

Tam said that tracking of COVID-19 variants continues, noting that Canada’s national microbiology lab has to date reported 23 cases of the variant of COVID-19 first detected in the U.K. and two cases of the variant first identified in South Africa.


What’s happening around the world

As of Tuesday afternoon, more than 95.8 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported around the world, with more than 52.8 million of those cases considered recovered or resolved, according to Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than two million.

WATCH | WHO chief warns of ‘catastrophic moral failure’ over vaccine distribution:

The wealthier countries of the world are buying up too much of the COVID-19 vaccine supply and leaving too little for poorer countries, says WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. 0:57

In the Americas, the death toll from COVID-19 in the United States surpassed 400,000 in the waning hours in office for President Donald Trump, whose handling of the crisis has been judged by public health experts a singular failure.

The running total of lives lost, as compiled by Johns Hopkins University, is nearly equal to the number of Americans killed in the Second World War. And the virus isn’t finished with the U.S. by any means, even with the arrival of the vaccines that could finally vanquish the outbreak: A widely cited model by the University of Washington projects the death toll will reach nearly 567,000 by May 1.

While the Trump administration has been credited with Operation Warp Speed, the crash program to develop and distribute coronavirus vaccines, Trump has repeatedly downplayed the threat, mocked masks, railed against lockdowns, promoted unproven and unsafe treatments, undercut scientific experts and expressed scant compassion for victims.

President-elect Joe Biden takes office on Wednesday.

While the count is based on figures supplied by government agencies around the world, the real death toll is believed to be significantly higher, in part because of inadequate testing and cases inaccurately attributed to other causes early on.

It took four months to reach the first 100,000 dead. It took just over a month to go from 300,000 to 400,000.

Brazil kicked off a nationwide COVID-19 immunization program on Monday by distributing doses of a vaccine from China’s Sinovac Biotech following an emergency use authorization, although the pace of vaccination will depend on delayed imports.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Monday the government aimed to compensate for a reduction in deliveries of COVID-19 vaccine doses from Pfizer with those from other providers.

In Europe, Britain has recorded more than 90,000 coronavirus-related deaths, just 10 days after it passed the 80,000 threshold.

Government figures on Tuesday showed that another 1,610 people were reported to have died in the 28 days after testing positive for COVID-19, taking the total to 91,470. The daily increase is the highest daily figure reported since the pandemic took root in the country.

Figures released Tuesday have invariably been higher throughout the pandemic because of weekend reporting lag effects.

Although the number of people dying is rising on a seven-day average, the number of people testing positive for the virus is clearly declining in the wake of the lockdown measures put in place across the U.K.

Britain, which is Europe’s worst-hit nation in terms of COVID-19-related deaths, recorded huge increases in cases around the turn of the year, with scientists blaming a new variant of the virus first identified around London and the southeast of England.

In the Middle East, Lebanon is dealing with a mounting pandemic piled on top of a financial collapse and a huge port blast in August that had already brought the health system to its knees.

“It is basically from one catastrophe to another,” said Charaf Abou Charaf, the head of Lebanon’s doctors’ syndicate. The country has seen daily infection rates soar in the last week to the highest levels in the region — past the 6,000 mark for the first time on Friday.

Israel’s cabinet, meanwhile, extended an existing nationwide lockdown through the end of January as the country contends with a runaway surge in coronavirus cases.

Most schools and non-essential businesses were closed earlier this month for two weeks, with outdoor gatherings restricted to 10 people. Those restrictions were extended until Feb. 1, and people landing in Israel must now present a negative coronavirus test result from at least 72 hours before their arrival.

WATCH | Israeli seniors celebrate after COVID-19 booster shots:

The speed of Israel’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout has some elderly Israelis out of isolation and into party mode after receiving their second shots. 0:49

Although Israel has administered the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine to more than two million people, the country of nine million has seen an infection surge. Israel’s Health Ministry also announced Tuesday that it is preparing to ramp up its vaccination efforts to 250,000 people per day, including people as young as 40.

In Africa, the continent’s hardest-hit country — South Africa — will be getting nine million doses of vaccine from Johnson & Johnson, according to the federal health ministry. South Africa, which has yet to receive its first coronavirus vaccine doses, has seen more than 1.3 million reported cases and more than 37,000 deaths.

More than 2,600 Nigerian physicians have contracted COVID-19 and dozens have died, said the chair of the Lagos branch of the Nigerian Medical Association, while medics await vaccines.

Rwanda, meanwhile, has reintroduced tough lockdown measures in its capital Kigali after a surge in cases.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said the government will extend physical-distancing measures due to expire this week as the city remains on heightened alert after the number of COVID-19 infections climbed back into triple digits.

Health workers in Hong Kong worked this week to test thousands of residents after an outbreak in an old residential building located in a busy commercial and residential area. (Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

China was dealing with coronavirus outbreaks across its frigid northeast on Tuesday, prompting additional lockdowns and travel bans ahead of next month’s Lunar New Year holiday. The country reported another 118 cases on Tuesday, with 43 of those in the province of Jilin. Hebei province, just outside Beijing, saw another 35 cases, while Heilongjiang province bordering Russia reported 27 new cases.

Beijing, where some residential communities and outlying villages have been placed under lockdown, reported just one new case.

A fourth northern province, Liaoning, has also imposed quarantines and travel restrictions to prevent the virus from further spreading, part of measures being imposed across much of the country to prevent new outbreaks during the holiday.

Authorities have called on citizens not to travel, ordered schools closed a week early and conducted testing on a massive scale.

Hebei’s provincial capital, Shijiazhuang, has been building a complex of prefabricated housing units to allow the quarantine of more than 3,000 people as it struggles to control more infections.

China has reported a total of 88,454 cases and 4,635 deaths since the novel coronavirus was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019. China does not include people who test positive but have no symptoms in its count.

A multinational team of investigators from the World Health Organization is currently in Wuhan undergoing two weeks of quarantine before beginning field visits in hopes of gaining clues into the origins of the pandemic.

New Zealand said it was looking to secure a small batch of COVID-19 vaccines early to protect its high-risk workers, as pressure mounts on the government to vaccinate its population.

Pakistan on Monday approved the Chinese Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, a government statement said, two days after AstraZeneca’s vaccine developed with Oxford University received a similar authorization.

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