OTTAWA – Canada has exercised an option with pharmaceutical giant Pfizer-BioNTech to obtain an additional 20 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine, with first shipments of some of those doses expected in April at the earliest.
“We plan to see these doses arrive in April or I believe,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Tuesday during his speech at Rideau Cottage. “We will continue to work to see if we can get a few more doses because all Canadians want it to happen as quickly as possible.
The federal government had already secured 20 million doses of Pfizer, and that amount has now doubled to 40 million, exercising an option in the contract that gave Canada access to up to 76 million additional doses.
In a separate press conference, Supply Minister Anita Anand said Canadians would start to see a “dramatic acceleration” in the mass vaccination campaign starting this spring, with lots more doses. which are expected to start arriving in the second quarter of 2021.
This news comes in the wake of Anand confirming that she has chosen not to exercise an option to purchase up to 16 million additional doses of the Moderna vaccine because they would not have arrived until the end of 2021.
Anand said Canada still has the ability to block more doses of the remaining 36 million options in the Pfizer deal.
She said the reason Canada opted for Pfizer over exercising the option with Moderna – which has now expired but is a logistically easier vaccine to administer – was that Pfizer could guarantee that their doses would arrive between April and September.
Last week, Major-General Dany Fortin told reporters that Pfizer had updated its guidelines to deliver doses in the thawed state and in smaller trays, meaning its vaccines can now be transported and administered to more sites across Canada without the same extreme degree of logistical complications of cold storage, as seen in the early weeks of the vaccine’s deployment in Canada.
“From our agreements with Moderna and Pfizer alone, we will now have 80 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine arriving this year,” Trudeau said Tuesday.
Anand said that between Moderna and Pfizer, 20 million doses would be delivered between April and June. A total of six million doses of these vaccines are expected to be delivered to three million priority Canadians by the end of March.
The federal government continues to face calls from provinces and some health experts for a faster rollout and larger dose distribution over the coming months, saying health facilities are ready to start immunizing more. large number of Canadians before spring.
On Monday, the federal government released a delivery schedule outlining the amount of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines distributed to provinces each week by the end of February so that each region can plan accordingly and schedule an appropriate number of immunization appointments for priority groups like frontline health workers and long-term care seniors come.
Both vaccines require two injections per person and if the 80 million doses arrived as planned, they would be enough to immunize the entire population. Health Canada’s safety and efficacy reviews are underway for two other vaccine candidates: AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, which, if given the regulatory green light, would further strengthen the available supply in Canada.
Canada plans to obtain up to 20 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine candidate and up to 38 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine candidate.
The federal government plans to begin immunizing the general population in April, and between that date and June, the goal is to immunize between 15 and 19 million Canadians, which is equivalent to between 40 and 50 percent of the population. Then, between June and September, the plan is to vaccinate nearly 20 million additional people, which will allow Canada to meet and exceed the herd immunity threshold.
Trudeau said on Tuesday that Canada remains on track to ensure that all Canadians who want to be vaccinated are vaccinated by September.
“If we can do it even faster than that, that would be great news. The sooner everyone gets vaccinated, the sooner we can get back to some semblance of normalcy, ”he said.