Federal government orders supplies to deliver two doses of COVID-19 vaccine when ready

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OTTAWA – The federal government is ordering more than 75 million syringes, alcohol swabs and bandages so they can inoculate Canadians as soon as a COVID-19 vaccine is ready. Supply Minister Anita Anand says Ottawa intends to stockpile enough vaccine to give at least two doses to every Canadian every time a vaccine is available.

There are nearly two dozen vaccines in clinical trials around the world and at least 140 more in the early stages of development, but most experts predict it will be fine in 2021 before the first vaccines are ready to go. be widely used.

Quebec biopharmaceutical company Medicago began the first trials of human COVID-19 vaccines in Canada on July 13 and expects to have the first results of its tests on 180 people by early fall.

Yet Anand says Canada wants to be ready and has ordered 75.2 million syringes, alcohol swabs, bandages and gauze pads, and 250,000 disposal containers for needles to be delivered by the end of October.

The syringe contracts are already in place but offers for other supplies opened last week and will be accepted until the end of July.

Ottawa is also looking to shift its multibillion-dollar medical supplies procurement program from panic buying in the event of a pandemic to longer-term planning. He is looking for a private company to take care of the logistics of ordering, receiving, storing and distributing millions of face masks, respirators, surgical gowns and other personal protective equipment each month.

A bid solicitation for a logistics coordinator was posted on July 16th. The government wants a supplier who can source or supply a temperature-controlled warehouse near the airports in Toronto and Hamilton, another near Montreal and a third in British Columbia or Alberta. The successful bidder must be able to process 27,000 pallets of supplies each month, as well as 220 freight shipping containers and 400 other cases of other goods.

The frantic buying of COVID-19 medical supplies globally has dominated Public Services and Procurement Canada for months now.

When depicted by Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland as the “Wild West” of purchasing supplies, the huge demand for masks, gowns, gloves and hand sanitizer to respond to the pandemic has turned into a season of Survivor in which governments had to foil, foil and survive others competing for the same products.

The intensity of that process has eased slightly, Anand said, but not enough that Canada is still willing to disclose its international suppliers.

“We have to be careful not to jeopardize our supply chains,” she said.

“Where we believe the supply chain is always at risk, in other words there is still intense global demand for a particular piece of PPE, it would not be prudent for us to reveal the names of the suppliers because competition is always very intense for that. good. ”

Canada has ordered millions of masks, gowns, gloves and other supplies to be delivered in 2021, and has accepted the delivery of 99 aircraft to date.

In some cases, we didn’t need as much as we expected. More than 40,000 ventilators have been ordered, but not as many COVID-19 patients required ventilators as planned. The 367s already delivered and the others on the way will be stored by Ottawa in case they are needed during future waves of the virus.

An agreement between Ottawa and the provinces means that 80 per cent of what Ottawa buys will be returned and shipped to provincial governments when they need it. The remaining 20 percent goes into the “national emergency strategic stock,” kept in a series of warehouses across Canada that store everything from medical supplies to temporary hospital beds and drugs to treat a variety of illnesses. infectious.

Ottawa is now asking local warehouse owners in Ottawa to provide space to increase the reserve, which was deemed insufficient last winter when Canada needed it most.

The country’s deputy chief public health officer Dr Howard Njoo said on Friday “hard lessons” had been learned about the stockpile and Canada’s dependence on international sources to supply it.

He said it was always believed that the national stock and supplies from the provinces would be sufficient for an immediate emergency and that everything the country needed could be ordered. This assumption turned out to be very wrong when governments around the world all needed the same things at the same time.

Before COVID-19, Canada was unable to take advantage of what it needed here at home.

“We have also learned that in the future we cannot necessarily depend solely on global supply chains, we have to be more self-reliant,” he said.

“I definitely feel better, I think, about our situation, where we’re now compared to, say, January, February,” he said.

About 40 p. 100% of the supplies Canada needs now come from Canada, including, for the first time, test swabs and N95 masks.

Anand said one of the key lessons is the need to ensure that orders for supplies are distributed before they expire. Last year, two million N95 masks kept in a warehouse in Regina were thrown away because they were expired. These could have been used before the pandemic rather than wasted.

Anand said there was work underway to coordinate federal supply and provincial needs with maintaining a stock, and she said the same principle is being extended to other supplies, such as the vaccine equipment.

“Rest assured if these syringes are not used for the vaccine, they can be used in other circumstances, for example to administer the flu vaccine,” she said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on July 18, 2020.

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