Pfizer-BioNTech has agreed to move up delivery of five million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine to Canada from late summer to June, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced today.
The accelerated delivery means Canada now expects to receive 9.6 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine that month, he said.
The news comes as the pace of vaccine deliveries speeds up. More than 3.2 million doses are expected to arrive this week alone, bringing the total number of doses delivered to Canada since vaccinations began in December to 9.5 million.
“As we’ve been saying for months, and as we’ve been planning with provinces and territories since last year, the end of March will be followed by an increase in vaccine supply,” Trudeau told a press conference today in Ottawa.
“We now have handily exceeded our promised target of six million doses delivered before April. And this week, we begin our ramp-up phase.”
But Trudeau’s promise of more doses this spring also came with a warning. He said that Canadians need to “stay strong a little longer” as case counts and hospitalizations rise across the country, driven by more transmissible variants of the coronavirus.
“We’re entering the final stretch of this crisis,” Trudeau said. “More and more vaccine doses are coming every week. There is reason to be hopeful.”
Almost half of the doses arriving this week come from a shipment of the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine landing today from the United States — one day after provinces suspended its use in people under the age of 55.
Those 1.5 million doses doses will cross the border by truck — the first to be manufactured in and shipped from the U.S.
Procurement Minister Anita Anand said that Pfizer will deliver to Canada at least one million doses every week from now until the end of May, and at least two million per week every week in June.
Anand said Canada is on track to receive 44 million doses of vaccine by the end of June, meaning that all Canadians who want to receive a vaccine should be able to do so by the end of the summer.
That number will grow once Johnson & Johnson confirms its delivery schedule. Anand said today that the first doses of that approved vaccine will begin to arrive at the end of April.
“We are still finalizing the delivery schedule with Johnson & Johnson, but we have had discussions with them, including some correspondence that I was engaged in last evening, and our deliveries of J&J will be beginning at the end of April,” Anand said.
Provinces limit use of AstraZeneca-Oxford
A panel of scientific experts recommended pausing the use of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine among people under the age of 55 yesterday. It’s a precautionary measure in response to possible links between the vaccine and rare but severe instances of blood clots in some immunized patients — notably younger women.
The recommendation marked the third time the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) altered its guidance on the vaccine in the past month. That has some warning that the changing guidelines may contribute to vaccine hesitancy.
Dr. Shelley Deeks, the vice-chair of NACI, said the recommendation came in response to new data from Europe that suggest the risk of severe blood clots could be up to one in 100,000 — much higher than the one in one million risk reported before.
Health Canada said Monday it ordered AstraZeneca to conduct a detailed study of the risks and benefits of its COVID-19 vaccine across multiple age groups and by sex. NACI’s recommendation will remain in place while that study is completed.