Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Monday that up to 249,000 doses of the first Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine will arrive in Canada before the end of the year. These shots will be given to nursing home residents and staff members who work there.
“Canadians will be vaccinated starting next week,” Trudeau said during a news conference in Ottawa if Health Canada approves it.
The first doses will come as provinces such as Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec are grappling with higher COVID-19 cases and deaths.
Trudeau said the dose will be delivered directly by Pfizer to 14 distribution centers that are now equipped with the necessary cold storage.
The vaccine will be distributed to provinces on a per capita basis, or the amount received per province corresponds to the proportion of their population. Currently, the vaccine will not be sent to territories in Canada because they are unable to safely store Pfizer products.
Although the exact locations of the 14 distribution centers have not been disclosed, several provinces, including Newfoundland & Labrador, say Pfizer products will be stored in major hospitals in urban areas.
While the first batch of vaccines was relatively small, Trudeau said the shipment helps provinces complete their supply chains before millions more are expected in the first three months of 2021.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford released the province’s immunization priority list today, closely following the advice of the National Immunization Advisory Committee (NACI).
Residents and employees in “collective care facilities”, such as nursing homes and retirement homes, will be given priority as long as they are located in one of Ontario’s “red zones”, such as Toronto or Peel region – places where the case of the disease increases. Red zone medical and hospital staff will also be among the first to be vaccinated.
General Rick Hillier, head of Ontario’s task force for vaccine distribution, said about 85,000 doses will be available in Ontario this month.
The announcement comes a day after Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech told CBC News that the two companies were prepared to send vaccines to Canada within 24 hours of the regulatory approval. The first doses will come next week if Health Canada gives the product a green light, Trudeau said.
“We are facing the biggest vaccination in the history of our country,” he said.
Dr. Supriya Sharma, chief medical advisor at Health Canada, said the agency could approve Pfizer products as soon as this week in the same timeline as the United States.
Health Canada is reviewing applications for other potential vaccine candidates also in development, including products from Massachusetts-based Moderna, U.S.-based AstraZeneca in the UK and Janssen, a pharmaceutical division of Johnson & Johnson. Moderna says Canada will be one of the first countries to receive the vaccine after it is approved.
These three vaccines do not require strict temperature controls and, if approved, will be distributed more widely than the Pfizer vaccine.
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