How do Canada and its provinces plan to distribute the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines? Which groups, such as health care workers and seniors, are getting it first? With the recent announcement that Health Canada has approved Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine, the second being made available to the public, Canadians are likely wondering when it will be their turn to get inoculated. But with the country currently in the first phase of vaccine rollout, that is still unclear, with much depending on what they do and where they live.
Location location location
It is up to each individual province and territory to decide how the vaccine will be administered. In general, they are following the recommendations put forward by the federal government's National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI). The advisory committee made these recommendations using experts in the fields of pediatrics, infectious diseases, immunology, pharmacy, nursing, epidemiology, pharmacoeconomics, social science and public health.
Who is getting vaccinated first?
NACI advised that initial doses should go to these people first.
When is the general public expected to receive a vaccine?
Much of that depends on the province or territory.
For example, in Ontario, retired general Rick Hillier, the head of the province's vaccination distribution task force, said he believes we can get into a lot of mainstream Ontario by later July. But other provinces, such as Alberta, have pegged the fall of 2021 as the beginning of the third phase when the general population will receive the vaccine.
The Public Health Agency of Canada says the entire country should have enough doses on hand next year to vaccinate every Canadian who wants a shot by the end of September. But those timelines may differ depending on the province and territory.
Other issues at hand
Canadian officials are the first to admit that the vaccine rollout will not be as widespread as in the United States or the United Kingdom because of what they describe as a "fiercely competitive" global scramble for early doses.
Canada is now overwhelmed by a second wave of the pandemic, officials are growing concerned that vaccines will not arrive quickly enough to save lives. The country has reported more than 464,000 confirmed cases, with 13,451 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins Covid Tracker database, with nearly 80% of the deaths occurring among residents of long-term care facilities.
Officials are prioritizing those residents along with health care workers as new restrictions on businesses and gatherings have failed to stem the surge in new cases or to keep the virus out of the vulnerable long-term facilities. Several provinces, including Ontario, Quebec and Alberta have set records for both new cases and hospitalizations in the last week.
On top of all of that, Major.-General. Dany Fortin has confirmed that the country will not receive any Pfizer vaccine doses during the week of Jan. 25, due to delivery delays that have hit countries around the world.
“We are now seeing that our entire expected shipment is deferred for next week, and then the numbers start to pick back up in the first weeks of February.” -Dany Fortin
This delay is due to the fact that Pfizer is scaling up its European manufacturing capacity – a move that officials said will impact the vaccine’s production for a “short period.”
“This week as our shipment was being prepared, there was a minimal impact and in fact, we’re receiving 82 percent of what we had originally planned on receiving,” - “However, next week’s deliveries have been deferred by Pfizer in their entirety. It will start back up in the first two weeks of February.” -Dany Fortin
He said the number of doses Canada will receive in those first two weeks of February has yet to be clarified, and they are expecting to know more specifics by Thursday. Fortin also reiterated what the government first shared when it learned of the temporary delay, which is that the overall Pfizer vaccine dose shipments for the next four weeks will be chopped by half.
Despite this reduction, the government remains optimistic that Pfizer will be able to catch up after the delay, given that the delay is happening so Pfizer can boost its manufacturing capacity. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that it would not affect Canada's long-term goal to have every Canadian vaccinated by the end of September.
By the fall, Canada is to get a total of 40 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. Both use a similar technology to train the human immune system to recognize the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 and to mount a defence against it. Health Canada approved Pfizer's vaccine on Dec. 9 and Moderna's on Dec. 23. It continues to review two more COVID-19 vaccines, from AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, but neither is expected to complete the review process in Canada for at least several more weeks. Until the time comes be sure to do your part for yourself, your loved ones and your community. Wear a mask and the proper PPE necessary to stay safe and help slow the spread of the coronavirus.