TORONTO – Officials planning the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in Ontario are now speaking directly with the manufacturers of seven different vaccine candidates as they prepare for what Health Minister Christine Elliott calls “the biggest logistics company ”with which the province was confronted. in a generation.
Several companies, including Pfizer and Moderna Inc., have already applied for emergency use authorization in the United States, but they will need to get their vaccines approved by Health Canada before they can be distributed.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last week that the first doses of the vaccine would arrive in Canada in the first quarter of 2021 and that the majority of Canadians would likely be vaccinated against the novel coronavirus by next September.
But it’s still unclear when the first Canadians in line to receive the vaccines will be able to roll up their sleeves.
Speaking to reporters after visiting a Brampton warehouse owned by pharmaceutical distribution company McKesson on Tuesday, Health Minister Christine Elliott said efforts were still underway to ensure Ontario was in able to distribute vaccines as of December 31.
“Since yesterday, we have started talking to vaccine manufacturers, including AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Johnson and Johnson, Jansen, Moderna, GSK and Sanofi. It’s absolutely essential for planning, ”she said. “We also work with distribution experts like McKesson and Shoppers Drug Mart, who not only have the warehouse capacity for vaccines like this, but also know how to get those vaccines to their networks, including hospitals and others. primary care providers. ”
Elliott has previously said that Ontario expects to receive 2.4 million combined doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines by March, which would be enough to immunize 1.2 million Ontarians.
The federal government, however, has not publicly confirmed this figure.
On Tuesday, Elliott said it was “essential” for the province to have confirmation as soon as possible when vaccines will start arriving, but she said that at present officials are ready to take ” the Prime Minister at his word that we will have the vaccine. very early in January.
In the meantime, she said work continues under the leadership of retired General Rick Hillier to ensure Ontario will be able to quickly distribute the vaccine as soon as it hits warehouses.
“We know this will be the largest logistics company we have had in Ontario in a generation,” she said. “We need to get this vaccine to every corner of the province. This is no small feat and we know we can’t do it alone. We need the help of companies and people with the necessary expertise in logistics, technology, patient care and pharmaceuticals. ”
The federal Liberal government has signed agreements with a total of seven different vaccine manufacturers and will be ready to eventually receive 414 million doses.
That said, the country could ultimately be behind the US and UK, both of which have unveiled plans to start vaccinating some citizens this month.
“We would all like the vaccine to be here tomorrow and for it to be 100% effective and for everyone to receive it the next day, but we know that won’t happen,” Hillier said on Tuesday, as he urged people to continue to follow public health advice in the meantime. “People are tired and say, ‘Oh my God, we can’t go on’. Well guess what you can. This is not the first time in our history that Canadians have faced and overcome incredible challenges.