OTTAWA -- The dose-sharing deal with the United States has been finalized, and those 1.5 million shots of the AstraZeneca vaccine are set to arrive next week, Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin announced Thursday.

Nearing the end of the first quarter and factoring in the scheduled deliveries for next week, Canada is on track to hit and possibly considerably exceed the total target of eight million COVID-19 vaccine doses delivered by the end of March, depending when next week these U.S. doses land.

“Public Service and Procurement Canada has recently negotiated the delivery of 1.5 million doses from the U.S., expected to arrive in Canada in the next week. When we have a confirmed delivery date to Canada, this quantity will be added to the quarterly distribution goal of vaccine doses,” Fortin said.

As part of the agreement, Canada is expected to have to return the favour by sending the U.S. back 1.5 million doses in the coming months, though with the vaccine rollout in that country well underway U.S. President Joe Biden is expecting to have enough supply for all eligible adults by the end of May, whereas Canada continues to hold on to an end-of-September timeline for wrapping up the mass immunization effort.

Potentially complicating things, it’s looking like these 1.5 million AstraZeneca shots will be coming from a plant that was not part of the initial Health Canada authorization, as the manufacturing facilities also have to pass regulatory approval.

Chief medical adviser at Health Canada Dr. Supriya Sharma said Thursday that additional U.S. sites are currently being assessed, but in the interim the federal health agency has authorized the vaccine doses to come into Canada to be stored, so that they would already be in the country for quick distribution once the green light to administer them is given.

Next week Canada is expecting a shipment of 1.2 million doses from Pfizer-BioNTech, with plans for shipments of approximately one million doses every week between April and June.

Heading into April, Moderna will keep shipping its shots every two weeks, meaning the next delivery will land the first week of the month and is expected to include 855,000 doses, increasing to 1.2 million doses in the following shipment.

Following the delivery of the U.S. doses, the next shipment from AstraZeneca is expected to come from the Serum Institute in India, with one million doses planned to arrive sometime in April, followed by the remaining 500,000 doses coming in May, rounding out the overall two-million-shot deal.

These figures are based on the expectation that the new European and Indian export restrictions won’t limit Canada’s supply. Fortin said Thursday that he is following the developments but so far there is no indication of coming delivery interruptions.

A delivery schedule has still not been established for the 20 million AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccines that Canada has a contract for. Those will also be coming from a U.S. facility, but that facility was approved as part of the initial AstraZeneca authorization from Health Canada.

There is still no delivery schedule set for the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccines, with the only timeline being that they are expected “by September.”

“The steady increase of vaccine numbers and options available does not mean the end of our planning and cooperation with all stakeholders and all partners,” Fortin said, noting his days are largely occupied by the constant dialogue with provincial and territorial vaccine rollout teams.

“This work continues as we near the start of the second quarter of this year,” he said.

As of March 24, the federal government has distributed nearly six million COVID-19 vaccines to the provinces and territories.

As Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Njoo noted on Thursday, Canada has hit a vaccination milestone, with more than 10 per cent of the adult population now having received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose.

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada’s figures, this includes 60 per cent of people over 80 years of age, and 19 per cent of those aged 70 to 79.

Though, as Njoo noted, these figures are still far short of having enough immunized Canadians to prevent further outbreaks of the virus, particularly as variants continue to spread.

Seeking to combat the ongoing vaccine hesitancy among some Canadians, particularly around the AstraZeneca vaccine, the federal health officials at Thursday’s briefing reiterated that the best vaccine for people is the first one offered.

“I am waiting eagerly, anticipating and waiting my turn to get vaccinated as well, and when that time comes I will be rolling up my sleeve to take any of the authorized vaccines… I think it's understandable, completely understandable that people have questions, but the same thing that we say to you is the same thing that I've said to my family members when they're making their decisions,” said Sharma.

“We want to make sure that people that are lining up to get vaccinated, or making those decisions, have as much confidence in the process as we do… We want to make sure that people do get their vaccines, get them as soon as possible. And the sooner we can get vaccinated, the sooner that we can get back to a closer to normal existence.”