Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the military commander leading Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine logistics, said today that manufacturers are expected to deliver up to one million doses a week starting in April.
Canada is currently in the first phase of a vaccine rollout – during which people who are most susceptible to illness, such as nursing home residents, natives and healthcare providers are vaccinated first. In the spring, the country will switch to a more widespread vaccine rollout as more frequent deliveries are made.
Canada’s immunization campaign has been off to a slow start. One month after the vaccination effort began, only one percent of the population received at least one injection of products from Pfizer or Moderna. Only 615,000 doses were shipped to provinces and territories.
The federal government is expecting to have up to six million doses – enough for three million people to be fully vaccinated with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines – by the end of March. But Fortin admitted on Thursday the government is still in talks about the delivery schedule.
“We have a scarcity of vaccines in the first quarter,” Fortin said. April will mark the start of what he’s calling the “ramp-up phase.”
The prospect of a million doses a week will be welcome news to provincial leaders who have been demanding more vaccine supply as COVID-19 cases spike.
While the vaccination campaign got off to a slow start, some provinces, notably B.C., Ontario and Quebec, have been fine-tuning their processes to administer doses faster.
Other provinces are lagging behind. Tens of thousands of the COVID-19 vaccines that the federal government has shipped so far are sitting in freezers. Manitoba and Nova Scotia were exceptionally slow, using less than half of the dose they received.
According to CBC’s vaccine tracking tool, there have been 419,209 doses injected to date.
Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy director of public health, also clarified a recent report from the National Immunization Advisory Committee (NACI). Provinces can boost the number of people vaccinated by delaying the second dose of Pfizer and Moderna for up to 42 days, NACI said.
NACI said every effort should be made to follow the prescribed dosing schedules, but noted there can be exceptions, particularly when vaccine supplies are so hard to come by and the spread of the virus in a given jurisdiction is rapid.
Njoo said Canadian public health officials are still committed to administering the two-dose regime on the timeline recommended by manufacturers — three weeks after the first shot for the Pfizer product, or one month after the first shot for the Moderna vaccine.
Agreeing with the NACI, he said there are good reasons to delay the second dose. “In exceptional circumstances, jurisdictions may consider an extended interval between doses based on current and projected epidemiological status, health care system capacity and vaccine delivery and management logistics”.
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