Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced today that several hundred thousand doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine will be available in Canada before the end of the year – shots intended primarily for nursing home residents and their staff.
Trudeau said up to 249,000 doses of the two-dose vaccine will be available by the end of the year to kick off a mass vaccination campaign that is expected to take many months to complete.
The first doses will arrive as some provinces – Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec in particular – grapple with a surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths.
Trudeau said the company is shipping these cans directly to 14 distribution centers, which are now equipped with the required cold storage. This particular vaccine has to be stored at -80 ° C – which makes distribution logistics “incredibly complex,” Trudeau said.
The vaccines are distributed to the jurisdictions on a per capita basis, which means that each province receives doses of vaccines appropriate to its proportion of the population. The vaccine will not be shipped to the areas for the time being as they lack the capacity to safely store the Pfizer product.
While the exact location of each of the 14 distribution centers is not yet known, some provinces, including Newfoundland and Labrador, have announced that Pfizer’s product will be stored in large hospitals in urban areas.
WATCH: Trudeau says the first vaccines are expected to arrive next week
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) said last week that the limited starting dose should be reserved for people at greatest risk of contracting the virus and developing severe symptoms – elderly residents of long-term care and assisted living facilities , Retirement homes and hospitals for chronic care as well as the staff who care for them.
After the residents and staff of nursing homes were vaccinated, NACI said the next priority group should be all Canadians over 80.
It will be up to provincial leaders to decide who gets shots and when, but Trudeau said prime ministers agree that NACI guidelines should be followed and the weakest should come first.
While the first batch of vaccines is relatively small, Trudeau said this shipment will give provinces and territories an opportunity to get rid of any kinks in the supply chain before millions more doses are expected to arrive in the first three months of 2021.
“This is the largest vaccine mobilization in Canadian history. It can start with a small number and increase rapidly if the flow of vaccine doses increases fairly quickly – that’s a good thing,” Trudeau said.
Ontario Prime Minister Doug Ford today released his province’s vaccination priority list, which is closely following NACI’s advice.
Priority will be given to residents and workers in “community care” facilities such as nursing homes and retirement homes while in one of Ontario’s “red zones” such as Toronto or the Peel region – places where rising caseloads have resulted in tighter restrictions on trade and public gatherings. Healthcare and hospital workers in the red zones will also be among the first to be vaccinated.
Approximately 85,000 doses will be available in Ontario this month, said retired General Rick Hillier, director of the Ontario task force on vaccine distribution.
He said that because of temperature restrictions, the vaccine cannot be easily transported between distribution centers and individual long-term care and old people’s homes.
“When we know we can move it, we want to reach the most vulnerable people first,” Hillier said. Staff may need to be vaccinated at central vaccination sites first as it is difficult to move long-term care residents.
Health Canada won’t cut corners when it comes to vaccine reviews: Trudeau
The announcement comes a day after Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech announced to CBC News that the two companies were ready to ship vaccine doses to Canada within 24 hours of regulatory approval. Trudeau said the first recordings should arrive next week when Health Canada gives the product the go-ahead.
Dr. Health Canada chief medical officer Supriya Sharma said her department could approve the Pfizer product as early as this week. This schedule roughly corresponds to the plans of the American regulatory authorities for the approval of vaccines.
Given the recent polls showing that a sizable number of Canadians say they will reject a vaccine altogether or wait some time before lining up for a shot, Trudeau wants Canadians to be sure that the science is safe Not being rushed, and Canadian regulators only approve products that work.
“The regulatory process is ongoing and experts are working around the clock. They will meet Canada’s globally recognized gold standard for medical approvals,” said Trudeau. “The regulatory process needs to be as stringent as ever. Health Canada has not cut back on the approval of a vaccine for safe use by Canadians.”
WATCH: Trudeau discusses Health Canada’s regulatory process
Maj. Gen. Dany Fortin, the military commander in charge of the Canada’s Department of Health’s National Vaccine Logistics Operations Center, will today lead the first of several planned “dry runs” with the provinces and territories to find the best way to deal with the extremely temperature-sensitive vaccine .
Fortin says health professionals can administer the Pfizer recordings “a day or two” after they arrive on our shores.
“Once you receive the product, you have to unpack, thaw, decant and mix it – so that’s a relatively quick process for the healthcare professional,” he said.
When asked why those doses are coming now, when his government has long said gunshots wouldn’t arrive until 2021, Trudeau said there is always the possibility that vaccine doses would be available in December, but he didn’t want “people’s hopes to be raised wake up”. He turned down the suggestion that the early deliveries were driven by a desire to silence criticism from opposition Conservatives.
Health Canada is currently reviewing applications for other promising vaccine candidates in the development pipeline, including products from Moderna of Massachusetts, AstraZeneca of the UK and Johnson & Johnson’s pharmaceuticals division, Janssen. Moderna has announced that Canada will be among the first to receive its vaccine once it is approved.
These three vaccines do not require such strict temperature controls and, if approved, will be more widely used than the Pfizer vaccine.
During a press conference Monday, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole accused the government of undermining confidence in COVID-19 vaccines by failing to keep Canadians informed of the process.
“Information in a pandemic is an important tool, and the Trudeau government’s secrecy creates more uncertainty, confusion and lack of trust at a time when Christmas parties are being canceled,” he said.
Later today, MPs will vote on a Conservative motion calling on the government to come up with a detailed plan to introduce vaccines.
Vote today on the move to the vaccination schedule
The application requests a status update:
- How any type of vaccine is safely delivered, stored and distributed to Canadians.
- The date when each type of vaccine was first used in Canada and the estimated rate of vaccination per month.
- All planned federal guidelines regarding vaccine use by priority groups such as health workers and senior citizens on the front lines.
- The plan to distribute the vaccine to indigenous communities, members of the Canadian Armed Forces and veterans.
Today’s press conference is also ahead of a first ministerial meeting on Thursday. Trudeau is expected to speak to prime ministers on issues such as the introduction of vaccines and federal health transfers. Prime ministers are pushing for an annual increase in health funding of $ 28 billion.