Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with the CEO of Pfizer Global on Thursday and was assured that, despite an ongoing delay in vaccine deliveries, the company will follow through on millions of vaccine shipments due in March.
News of Trudeau’s conversation with CEO Dr. Albert Bourla comes as officials overseeing the vaccine rollout release new projections as they work to assure Canadians that the current shipment slowdown won’t hamper the country's long-term schedule.
“Today, I spoke with the CEO of Pfizer Global, Dr. Bourla, about the timely delivery of COVID-19 vaccines to Canada,” Trudeau tweeted Thursday. “He assured me that we’ll receive 4 million doses by the end of March. We’ll keep working together to ensure Canadians can get a vaccine as soon as possible.”
Officials overseeing the vaccine rollout say Canada remains on schedule, although the country will see a short-term drop in supply in the coming weeks.
Projections released Thursday by federal health officials suggest that Canada will be able to vaccinate 3 million people by the end of March, accounting for eight per cent of the entire population. Even if Canada doesn’t approve any more vaccines by the fall, estimates suggest that doses from Pfizer and Moderna will cover 13 million Canadians, or 34 per cent, by June and 36 million, or 95 per cent, by September 30.
While the long-term plan remains on track, Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, who is leading Canada’s logistical rollout, said Canada is only getting about one-third of the expected deliveries between this week and Feb. 7. Canada is set to receive no new deliveries of doses next week and 79,000 Pfizer doses in the first week of February.
This delay will impact Canada’s short-term vaccine supply, but Fortin said future shipments are expected to make up for the shortage.
“To that end, we expect a rapid scale-up of deliveries in the upcoming weeks following this current supply disruption,” Fortin said at a press conference.
Pfizer advised Canada last week that upgrades to its plant in Belgium would temporarily slow production and reduce doses delivered to every country except the United States, which has its own production facility. Canada can expect to see its deliveries cut in half over four weeks, the company initially said, with the factory returning to full production on Feb. 15.
The next shipment of Moderna vaccines is due in the first week of February and will include an estimated 230,400 doses. Overall, Canada expects to receive 6 million doses of both vaccines by the end of March.
Canada’s vaccine rollout could happen faster if more vaccines are approved. The projections suggest that, based on all vaccines Canada has procured but have yet to be approved, as many as 23 million Canadians could be vaccinated between April and June, accounting for 61 per cent of the population. Canada could have enough doses for up to 73 million people between July on September. In such a scenario, there would be more than enough vaccines for everyone who wants one.
Fortin described those estimates as “planning data” meant to give provinces and territories an idea of what to expect if everything goes better than expected.
“The last thing we want to do is put jurisdictions in a place where we have additional doses coming and we hadn’t factored that in early to our planning,” he said.
Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, said that, while the government’s overall timeline for vaccines hasn’t changed, there is always the possibility of unexpected supply issues or new vaccine approvals.
In the meantime, the best thing Canadians can do while they wait for the vaccine is to follow public health guidelines, Dr. Njoo said.