Prime Minister Justin Trudeau today announced that several hundred thousand doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine will be available in Canada before the end of the year — shots primarily earmarked for long-term care home residents and the staffers working there.
Trudeau said up to 249,000 doses of the two-dose vaccine will be on hand by year’s end to launch a mass inoculation campaign, which is expected to take many months to complete.
The first doses will arrive as some provinces — notably Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec — grapple with a sharp increase in COVID-19 caseloads and deaths.
Trudeau said these doses will be delivered by the company directly to 14 distribution centres now equipped with the necessary cold storage. This particular vaccine must be stored at -80 C — which will make the logistics of distribution “incredibly complex,” Trudeau said.
The vaccines will be distributed to jurisdictions on a per-capita basis, meaning each province and territory will receive vaccine doses in numbers proportionate to their share of the population.
While the first batch of vaccines to arrive is relatively small, Trudeau said this shipment will give the provinces and territories the chance to work through any kinks in the supply chain before the anticipated arrival of millions more doses in the first three months of 2021.
“This is the largest mobilization of vaccines in Canada’s history, and being able to start with a small number and rapidly scale up as the flow of vaccine doses starts increasing quite rapidly — this is a good thing,” Trudeau said.
The announcement comes a day after Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech, told CBC News the two companies are prepared to ship vaccine doses to Canada within 24 hours of regulatory approval. Trudeau said the first shots should arrive next week, if Health Canada gives the product the green light.
Dr. Supriya Sharma, the chief medical adviser at Health Canada, has said her department could approve the Pfizer product as soon as this week. That timeline is roughly in line with American regulators’ plans for vaccine approval.
With recent polls showing that a sizeable number of Canadians say they will refuse a vaccine altogether, or will wait some time before lining up for a shot, Trudeau said he wants Canadians to be assured that the science will not be rushed and Canada’s regulators will only approve products that work.
“The regulatory process is ongoing and experts are working around the clock. They will uphold Canada’s globally-recognized gold standard for medical approvals,” Trudeau said.
Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the military commander leading the Public Health Agency of Canada’s national operations centre on vaccine logistics, will lead the first of several planned “dry runs” with the provinces and territories today to work out the best way to handle the extremely temperature-sensitive vaccine.
Fortin said health care professionals can start administering the Pfizer shots “a day or two” after they arrive on our shores.
During a news conference earlier Monday, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole accused the government of undermining confidence in COVID-19 vaccines by failing to keep Canadians informed of the process.
“Information in a pandemic is a critical tool, and the secrecy of the Trudeau government is leading to more uncertainty, more confusion and a lack of confidence at a time where we’re seeing Christmas celebrations cancelled,” he said.
Later today, MPs will vote on a Conservative motion that calls on the government to present a detailed vaccine rollout plan.
Vote today on vaccine plan motion
The motion calls for a status update on:
- How each type of vaccine will be safely delivered, stored and distributed to Canadians.
- The date when each vaccine type will be first deployed in Canada and the rate of vaccinations anticipated by month.
- Any planned federal guidance with respect to the deployment of the vaccine by priority group, such as front line health workers and seniors.
- The plan to distribute the vaccine to Indigenous communities, members of the Canadian Armed Forces and veterans.
Today’s news conference also comes ahead of a first ministers’ meeting set for Thursday. Trudeau is expected to talk with the premiers about issues such as the vaccine rollout and federal health transfers. The premiers are pushing for a $28 billion annual boost in health funding.
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