Canada is expecting to receive up to 249,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in December, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday (Dec. 7).
“The first shipment of doses is tracking for delivery next week,” Trudeau said at a morning press conference in Ottawa. “
“This will move us forward on our whole timeline”
The Pfizer vaccine must still receive Health Canada approval before it is distributed. Trudeau said that if the vaccine is approved this week, the first Canadians will begin to get vaccinated next week.
In total, Canada is expected to get between 20 million and 76 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine. The vaccine requires two doses and is up to 95 per cent effective, Pfizer said, and Trudeau confirmed the first doses will vaccinate just short of 125 million people. It has already received approval in the U.K.
Federal and provincial governments are working on the country’s first 14 vaccination sites. At prior press conferences, federal officials have that Pfizer will handle delivery of their vaccine to point-of-use sites. The Pfizer vaccine comes with one major challenge; it must be stored and shipped at ultra-cold temperatures of around minus 70 degrees Celsius (minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit). Canada has ordered 126 freezers for vaccine storage, 26 of which are ultra-cold freezers for the Pfizer option.
Trudeau said the most vulnerable will be vaccinated first, which is expected to include residents and health-care workers at the country’s hard hit long-term care facilities. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization has said that following that, the vaccine will be prioritized for people aged 80 and older, with it being released in five-year increments to age 70 as more supply becomes available. The other priority groups will include health-care workers and adults in Indigenous communities, where “infection can have disproportionate consequences.”
The prime minister said this was “the largest mobilization of vaccines in Canada’s history” and that the rollout plan would be complex. Maj-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, said a dry run with the Pfizer vaccine is being conducted this week.
Canada has hedged its bet on successful vaccine candidates, and is scheduled to receive:
20 to 70 million doses of the Pfizer messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine candidate developed with BioNTech, BNT162b2
Up to 76 million doses of the Medicago virus-like particle vaccine candidate
Up to 20 million doses of the AstraZeneca viral vector vaccine candidate AZD1222
Up to 72 million doses of the Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline protein subunit vaccine candidate
Up to 38 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson viral vector vaccine candidate Ad26.COV2.S
Up to76 million doses of the Novavax protein subunit vaccine candidate NVX-CoV2373
Up to 56 million doses of the Moderna mRNA vaccine candidate mRNA-1273.
Health officials have promised that the COVID-19 vaccine will be free for all Canadians, but will not be made mandatory.