Tag Archives: vaccination

Australia abandons COVID-19 vaccination targets after new advice on AstraZeneca shots

Australia has abandoned a goal to vaccinate nearly all of its 26 million population by the end of 2021 following advice that people under the age of 50 take Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine rather than AstraZeneca’s shot.

Australia, which had banked on the AstraZeneca vaccine for the majority of its shots, had no plans to set any new targets for completing its vaccination program, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a Facebook post on Sunday afternoon.

“While we would like to see these doses completed before the end of the year, it is not possible to set such targets given the many uncertainties involved,” Morrison said.

Authorities in Canberra changed their recommendation on Pfizer shots for under-50s on Thursday, after European regulators reiterated the possibility of links between the AstraZeneca shot and reports of rare cases of blood clots.

Australia, which raced to double its order of the Pfizer vaccine last week, had originally planned to have its entire population vaccinated by the end of October.

Australia’s hardline response to the virus largely stopped community transmissions but the vaccination rollout has become a hot political topic — and a source of friction between Morrison and state and territory leaders — after the country vaccinated only a fraction of its four million target by the end of March.

About 1.16 million COVID-19 doses have now been administered, Morrison said, noting the speed of Australia’s vaccination program was in line with other peer nations, including Germany and France, and ahead of Canada and Japan.

Australia began vaccinations much later than some other nations, partly because of its low number of infections, which stand at just under 29,400, with 909 deaths, since the pandemic began.

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How approval of Johnson & Johnson’s ‘one and done’ COVID-19 vaccine could change Canada’s vaccination game

A one-dose COVID-19 vaccine is now approved for use in Canada — and vaccine experts say the shot from Johnson & Johnson could give a major boost to countrywide vaccination efforts while offering a “real solution” to hasten the end of the pandemic.

Health Canada authorized its use and released details during a Friday morning announcement.

The vaccine, made by a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, is a non-replicating viral vector option and, unlike the three other vaccines previously approved for Canadian use, was tested during clinical trials as a single shot. 

So far, Canada is expecting 10 million doses, with options to purchase up to 28 million more if necessary, with most of those shots set to arrive by the end of September.

From a logistical standpoint, Toronto-based infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch said the benefits are clear.

“You can vaccinate more people in a shorter period of time,” he said. “You don’t have to clog up the vaccine centres with people getting their second dose — it’s one and done.”

The storage requirements are also less stringent than the early freezer requirements for the two mRNA-based vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, with Johnson & Johnson estimating its single-dose option should remain stable for two years at -20° C — and can be stored for at least three months in most standard refrigerators.

Wondering how each of the leading coronavirus vaccines compares? Click here for a closer look at the vaccines Canada is betting on to stem the spread of COVID-19.

“You can way more easily get a vaccine like this into primary care clinics and pharmacies, which means that you can distribute it so much more broadly,” said Bogoch, who is also a member of Ontario’s vaccine task force.

That’s good news in this country and beyond, said Dr. Zain Chagla, a Hamilton-based infectious disease specialist and professor at McMaster University.

“In remote areas of Canada, it’s a big vaccine in that sense that it’s easy to transport and get around, and it’s big for the rest of the world,” he said. 

“This is a vaccine that could go into mass vaccine clinics in low- and middle-income countries that could be stored on the back of a motorcycle to make it into a very, very remote setting. That is very, very different than anything we have in that sense.”

WATCH | J&J vaccine good for less accessible, marginalized communities, doctor says:

As a single dose COVID-19 vaccine, the Johnson & Johnson product will be especially helpful for people who sometimes have difficulty accessing health care, says Dr. Lisa Bryski, a retired ER doctor in Winnipeg. 1:23

85% effective at stopping severe disease

But where the vaccine excels at convenience, it may fall short on overall efficacy — though there are a lot of factors at play, and it’s crucial to note the shot is proving highly effective at reducing cases of serious illness.

According to February briefing documents from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Johnson & Johnson’s shot was both safe and effective in clinical trials, where it reduced the risk of COVID-19 and prevented PCR-test confirmed cases at least 14 days after vaccination.

A month earlier, the company had announced its vaccine was 66 per cent effective in preventing COVID-19 against multiple variants in a global trial involving nearly 44,000 people.

That effectiveness varied from 72 per cent in the United States to 66 per cent in Latin America and 57 per cent in South Africa, where a new variant has spread.


In January, Johnson & Johnson announced its vaccine was 66 per cent effective in preventing COVID-19 against multiple variants in a global trial involving nearly 44,000 people. (Phill Magakoe/AFP/Getty Images)

That’s in contrast to the even more powerful protection witnessed in clinical trials for the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, which showed efficacy levels — in terms of preventing symptomatic COVID-19 infection — of 94 per cent and 95 per cent respectively after two doses.

Those trials, however, took place before the rise of several concerning variants of this virus. Each company also tested for slightly different outcomes, meaning the efficacy levels aren’t apples-to-apples comparisons.

On Friday, Dr. Bob Wachter, chair of the department of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco likened it to comparing the scores of golfers who teed off during a calm moment to those who teed off when “winds were howling.”

“While it’s hard to make precise adjustment,” he said in a tweet, “it’s clear that equally good play will result in different scores.”

WATCH | Doctor who helped create Johnson & Johnson vaccine talks about its efficacy:

Dr. Dan Barouch, director, Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, says the Johnson & Johnson vaccine he helped to create is highly effective against COVID-19 and new variants of concern. 5:11

Crucially, Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose option did prove 85 per cent effective overall when it came to stopping severe cases of the disease specifically.

The company’s main study also showed that 28 days or more after vaccination, the shot 100 per cent prevented hospitalizations and deaths.

“I think people discount how much practicality means to this vaccine rollout,” Chagla said. “You do see severe illness going down with this vaccine. You see hospitalizations coming down with this vaccine.”


One-dose could offer ‘real solution’

Virologist and vaccinologist Alyson Kelvin, who is working on Canadian COVID-19 vaccine development at the University of Saskatchewan’s VIDO-InterVac research institute, said for all vaccine developers, a safe and effective single-dose option has been the ultimate goal.

“Because people will be more interested in taking a vaccine if they don’t have to go back for their second shot, and which means that a vaccine will be more effective at getting to that community immunity that we need,” she said.

Like Chagla, she’s not alarmed by a slightly lower overall efficacy level.

“The goal of the vaccine is to protect people. Keeping them out of hospitals, keeping them from succumbing to disease,” she said.

And Chagla stressed that ultimately, this one-dose option could offer a “real solution” that helps countries like Canada tackle this year-long pandemic and alleviate the current burden on the health-care system from a virus that’s still widespread.

“It may not be the final strategy for vaccination,” he said. “But it’s a pretty good ‘right now’ strategy for vaccination.”

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WHO says most African countries to begin vaccination drives by end of March

Most African countries will kick-start their COVID-19 vaccination programs by the end of March as efforts to procure doses for the continent’s 1.3 billion people gather pace, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday.

The world’s poorest continent faces logistical and financial obstacles to securing all the vaccines it needs, but the WHO-led COVAX facility has begun to bear fruit.

“This week Africa has been at the forefront of COVAX facility deliveries, finally, with almost 10 million vaccine doses being delivered to 11 countries as of this morning,” WHO Africa’s Matshidiso Moeti told a virtual news conference.

“We expect that around half of African countries will receive COVAX deliveries in the coming week and that most countries will have vaccination programs underway by the end of March.”

COVAX, also led by the GAVI vaccines alliance and other partners, plans to send about 1.3 billion doses to 92 lower- and middle-income nations, covering up to 20 per cent of their populations.

As of Thursday, Africa had reported at least 3,955,000 infections and 104,000 deaths.

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An earlier end date for vaccination campaign is ‘possible’, Trudeau says

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today that Canada’s vaccination campaign could wrap up before September if the country secures the necessary shots and if there’s a change in dosing timelines.

U.S. President Joe Biden announced Tuesday his administration will have enough supply on hand by the end of May to vaccinate every American — two months earlier than planned.

Asked about that ambitious timeline, Trudeau said his government is confident that all Canadians who want a shot will be vaccinated by the end of September, but an earlier end date is “possible” if all goes well with deliveries and if other promising vaccine candidates are approved by the regulators at Health Canada.

“As I’ve been saying since this past November, we expect all Canadians to be vaccinated by the end of September, for those who want it,” he said. “It’s possible that those timelines can be moved forward.”

He said Ottawa is focused on “bringing in more doses for more Canadians to get through this as rapidly as possible.”

Possible change to dosing schedule

More Canadians could get vaccinated earlier than planned if the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) agrees to adjust the recommended interval between first and second vaccine doses — a change that some provinces, notably B.C. and Quebec, have implemented already.

“We’re seeing some of the science shift, some proposals put forward which are very, very interesting, which could result in rapider timelines,” Trudeau said.

Asked if he was reluctant to amend the timelines because of past supply hiccups, Trudeau said there have been “disruptions” in supply from Pfizer and Moderna “from the very beginning.”

Trudeau said any comparisons between the pandemic experiences of Canada and the U.S. must recognize that there have been many more cases — and more deaths — reported south of the border.

“Obviously, the pandemic has had a very different course in the United States,” Trudeau said.

On a death-per-caseload basis, however, Canada has fared worse than the U.S. because of how many seniors have died of the virus in long-term care homes in this country. About 2.5 per cent of all COVID-19 cases have resulted in death in Canada, compared to 1.8 per cent in the U.S.

Health Canada’s recent approval of the AstraZeneca product will add more than 20 million shots to the country’s vaccine stockpile over the next six months, but the delivery schedule for most of these shots has not yet been finalized.

One shipment of 500,000 AstraZeneca shots produced by the Serum Institute of India arrived today, but questions remain about who should have access to this product.

WATCH: Some provinces won’t give AstraZeneca to seniors

Several provinces are signalling they will follow the recommendation of Canada’s vaccine advisory body and not give the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine to seniors, creating a shift away from a high-priority group despite Health Canada’s advice that the vaccine is safe and effective. 2:29

Even before Biden’s announcement, the U.S. was well on its way to ending its inoculation campaign before Canada.

The U.S. is on track to fully vaccinate at least 34 per cent of the population by the end of March, while Canada hopes to vaccinate about 8 per cent on the same timeline.

After accounting for population size, the U.S. will have administered about 4.5 times more shots per capita by month’s end. Canada has administered 2 million doses so far, while the U.S. is nearing 80 million.

At least 26.4 million doses — 23 million from Moderna and Pfizer combined, 1.5 million AstraZeneca doses from the Serum Institute and another 1.9 million AstraZeneca doses from COVAX, the global vaccine-sharing initiative — are set to arrive in Canada between April and June.

All told, the country is projected to have enough supply to fully vaccinate at least 16.45 million people by Canada Day. The supply is expected to grow once delivery schedules for the AstraZeneca product are confirmed.

The U.S. campaign has benefited from a robust domestic vaccine manufacturing sector and massive investments by former president Donald Trump’s administration in companies like Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.

Trump also signed an executive order last December to mandate that all U.S. facilities fulfil their contractual obligations to the U.S. government before shipping products abroad — a decision that has forced Canada to rely on European plants for our shots.

Biden has maintained Trump’s ‘America First’ approach to vaccines and his spokesperson, Jen Psaki, told reporters this week that the U.S. will not send any doses to allies like Canada or Mexico until the vaccination campaign is complete stateside.

According to the latest federal budget documents, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has budgeted up to $ 5 billion for COVID-19 vaccines and other treatments, such as therapeutics.

The specific costs for each vaccine candidate are protected by confidentiality clauses in the federal government’s agreements with drug makers. Canada has promised to buy more than 240 million doses of seven different vaccines if all of them are approved.

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Ontario reveals more details on COVID-19 vaccination plan, but most won’t get a reservation for months

An online portal for booking appointments for COVID-19 vaccines in Ontario is set to launch on March 15, the head of the province’s immunization task force said Wednesday, but it will likely be months longer before many people are able to get a reservation.

The announcement from retired general Rick Hillier comes as members of the general public in both Alberta and Quebec will be able to start booking appointments this week.

Hillier said the delay in launching Ontario’s version is because the focus until that point will be on populations that don’t require an appointment, such as patient-facing health-care workers and essential caregivers for long-term care residents.

“I would have liked to have it earlier, quite frankly,” Hillier told reporters, adding that health authorities are working “furiously” to test the system.

When the online portal, along with a telephone booking system, launch in March, Ontarians aged 80 and over will be the next priority. Hillier cautioned that anyone who is not in that age group, or who is not trying to make a reservation for a person in the 80-plus age group, will not be able to book an appointment in the weeks that follow.

Officials expect to begin vaccinating people 80 years and over by the third week of March. 

The proposed schedule in the following weeks, Hillier said, will look something like this as long as supplies of vaccine stay steady:

  • April 15: vaccinations begin for people 75 years old and over.
  • May 1: vaccinations begin for people 70 years old and over.
  • June 1: vaccinations begin for people 65 years and over.
  • July 1: vaccinations begin for people 60 years and over.

Essential workers, meanwhile, should begin getting their shots the first week in May, Hillier said, with the final decision about who qualifies in that category still to come from cabinet. The task force has already submitted its recommendations, he added.

Hillier wouldn’t say when those 60 years old and under who are not essential workers should expect to start getting shots. 

“A great question, we don’t need to answer it right now. Early summer is when we might be able to discuss that issue,” Hillier said.

WATCH | Retired general Rick Hillier on Ontario’s vaccine rollout timeline:

Ontarians aged 80 and over will be able to get their COVID-19 vaccinations in the third week of March, said retired general Rick Hillier, the head of Ontario’s vaccine task force as he outlined a series of dates for the vaccine rollout. 1:07

He also did not provide even a rough timeline for when people under 60 with underlying medical conditions or those living in higher-risk neighbourhoods might expect to be given a first dose of vaccine.

Hillier did say, however, that where Ontarians can expect to get a shot will be based on their postal code. They will be delivered through a combination of mass vaccination clinics, community centre programs pharmacies.

Asked why Ontario’s platform wasn’t launched sooner considering Alberta and Quebec residents will be booking vaccines imminently, Ford said at a news conference Wednesday that he respectfully disagrees the province is lagging behind.

Ford pointed to Alberta’s system crashing Wednesday on its first day of operations and said Quebec hasn’t administered a single second dose of the vaccine thus far.  

In a series of tweets, Dr. Isaach Bogoch, an infectious disease physician and member of the task force, said that primary care providers will help staff vaccination sites and will eventually be able to offer shots at their own clinics once additional vaccines are approved for use by Health Canada.

Several options on the horizon are more stable than the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines currently available, Bogoch said. Approval of further vaccines could “significantly speed up” the rough timeline offered by Hillier.


Ontario Premier Doug Ford watches a health-care worker prepare a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Each public health unit will eventually be expected to give out up to 10,000 doses per day, though some larger health units should be doing considerably more, Bogoch said. For example, Toronto Public Health expects to have capacity for up to 400,000 shots per week, with most administered at nine mass vaccination sites, he added. 

As of Feb.14, all residents of long-term care and high-risk retirement homes — generally defined as those that provide memory care — who wanted a vaccine had been given their first shot.

So far the province has administered a total of 602,848 doses of COVID-19 vaccine, and 251,590 people have gotten both doses.

At a news conference Wednesday, Ford also announced Ontario will spend $ 115 million to provide tuition-free training to 6,000 prospective personal support workers. The programs, which are set to be up and running in April, will consist of paid placements with students completing in six months, rather than eight.

The government will also provide approximately $ 2,000 in financial assistance to some 2,200 students already completing studies in the PSW fields. 

Asked if the province will move to institute paid sick days for PSWs, Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, Ontario’s minister of long-term care, didn’t answer directly. 

1,054 new cases of COVID-19

The news comes as Ontario reported another 1,054 cases of COVID-19 and nine more deaths of people with the illness Wednesday morning. 

The additional cases include 363 in Toronto, 186 in Peel Region and 94 in York Region. 

Other public health units that saw double-digit increases were:

  • Simcoe Muskoka: 53
  • Windsor-Essex: 50
  • Thunder Bay: 45
  • Waterloo Region: 44
  • Ottawa: 40
  • Hamilton: 38
  • Durham Region: 35
  • Halton Region: 26
  • Niagara Region: 13
  • Middlesex-London: 10

(Note: All of the figures used in this story are found on the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 dashboard or in its Daily Epidemiologic Summary. The number of cases for any region may differ from what is reported by the local public health unit, because local units report figures at different times.)

The Ministry of Education also reported 112 school-related cases: 89 students, 18 staff members and five people who were not identified. As of yesterday, 16 of Ontario’s 4,828 publicly-funded schools were closed due to COVID-19.

Ontario’s lab network completed 54,852 tests for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and logged a test positivity rate of 2.4 per cent. 

The seven-day average of new daily cases rose to 1,084. A steep drop in the seven-day average that began on Jan. 12 has levelled out.

According to the Ministry of Health, there were 675 people in Ontario hospitals with COVID-19 as of yesterday. Of those, 287 were being treated in intensive care and 182 needed a ventilator.

The nine deaths reported today bring Ontario’s official toll to 6,893. 

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COVID-19 vaccination linked to lower hospitalization risk in real-world data from Scotland

Scotland’s vaccination drive appears to be markedly reducing the risk of hospitalization for COVID-19, suggesting that both the Pfizer-BioNtech and Oxford-AstraZeneca shots are highly effective in preventing severe infections, preliminary study findings showed on Monday.

Results of the study, which covered the entire Scottish population of 5.4 million people, showed that by the fourth week after the initial dose, the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines were found to reduce the risk of hospitalization by up to 85 per cent and 94 per cent respectively.

These results are very encouraging and have given us great reasons to be optimistic for the future,” said Aziz Sheikh, a professor at the University of Edinburgh’s Usher Institute who co-led the study.

Sheik cautioned at a media briefing that the results are preliminary data, yet to be peer-reviewed by independent scientists, but added: “I am very encouraged. We now have national evidence … that vaccination provides protection against COVID-19 hospitalizations.”

Vaccination results

He said he expected other countries using the same two vaccines and a similar strategy — such as England and Wales for example —  would see a similar positive impact in reducing the number of people being hospitalized with COVID-19.

Data for the vaccines’ effect in Scotland was gathered between Dec. 8 and Feb. 15. Researchers said that during this period, 1.14 million vaccines were administered and 21 per cent of Scotland’s population had received a first dose.

Among those aged 80 years and over —  one of the highest risk groups for COVID-19 —  vaccination was associated with an 81 per cent reduction in hospitalization risk in the fourth week, when the results for both vaccines were combined.

Jim McMenamin, Public Health Scotland’s COVID-19 incident director, said the findings are particularly important “as we move from expectation to firm evidence of benefit from vaccines.”

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Who’s next? Provincial, territorial vaccination plans begin to take shape

Vaccine deliveries are starting to ramp up again and Canadians everywhere are asking themselves the same questions: When will it be my turn? And how will I know?

Each province has a phased plan for vaccine deployment which indicates when the various priority groups can expect to receive the shots.

All provincial and territorial governments maintain they’re ready to speed up the vaccination effort as the supply increases, but some of their timetables remain vague. Here’s what we know so far about who’s getting the shots and when.

British Columbia

B.C. is still in Phase 1 of its vaccine rollout, which covers residents and staff of long-term care facilities, health care workers who may provide care for COVID-19 patients and remote and isolated Indigenous communities.

The subsequent phase runs over February to March and includes seniors 80 and over, Indigenous seniors 65 and over, hospital staff and medical specialists, vulnerable populations living and working in congregated settings and staff providing in-home support to seniors.

B.C. says the province’s general population will start getting the vaccines in April, with older residents getting their shots first.


Andy Yoon, 77, of Abbotsford B.C., became the first long-term care resident in the Fraser Health region to receive the COVID-19 vaccination on Dec. 24, 2020. (Submitted by Fraser Health)

Immunization clinics overseen by local health authorities are being organized in 172 communities in school gymnasiums, arenas, convention centres and community halls.

B.C. said it would start reaching out by the end of February to seniors 80 years and older, Indigenous seniors aged 65 and older and Indigenous Elders to tell them how to pre-register for immunization appointments.

Pre-registration for vaccinations opens in March. People can pre-register, online or by phone, two to four weeks before they are eligible. Eligibility is based on the current phase of the vaccination program and the recipient’s age.

Those contacted for vaccination appointments are pre-screened for eligibility before choosing a location, date and time to receive the shot.

After an individual gets their first vaccine dose, they’ll be told by email, text or phone when they can book an appointment for their second dose.

For more information about B.C.’s vaccination plan, go here.

Alberta

Alberta is in the first phase of its vaccine rollout. This phase — which is expected to run until the end of the month — covers health care workers who could be in direct contact with COVID-19 patients and residents of long-term care facilities.

As of Feb. 24, seniors 75 and over and seniors 65 and over living in First Nations and Métis communities will be eligible for vaccination. The Alberta government estimates there are about 230,000 seniors in these two groups.

Given the anticipated vaccine delivery schedule, Alberta Health Services says it expects it will be vaccinating people in this phase over most of March.


Masked Kehewin Cree Nation elders pray at a ceremony marking the arrival of COVID-19 vaccine doses in the northern Alberta community on Feb. 8, 2021. Kehewin council member Greyeagle Cardinal looks on from behind plexiglass. (Jodi Cardinal)

Phase 2 is expected to begin in April. Vaccinations in this phase will be offered to anyone aged 50 to 74 years, anyone with underlying health conditions, First Nations and Métis people aged 35 and older, residents and staff in congregate living settings and eligible caregivers.

The Alberta government says that, as supply increases, it will accelerate vaccinations on the model of its annual flu campaign by using Alberta Health Services staff, community pharmacies and family physicians. The province was able to administer 1.3 million flu shots in six weeks last fall — an average of over 30,000 shots per day.

For more information about Alberta’s vaccination plan, go here.

Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan’s Phase 1 is still underway, focusing on health care workers, residents and staff of long-term care homes, residents 70 years and older and residents in remote and northern regions over the age of 50.

The timing is still not known, but Phase 2 will cover the general population starting with people aged 60-69, extremely vulnerable individuals and staff and residents of group homes and emergency shelters.

The province expects that when Phase 2 begins, there will be 226 vaccine clinics in 181 communities across the province operated by the Saskatchewan Health Authority. Those clinics will include mass vaccination sites, drive-through locations and mobile vaccination clinics. More sites will be added through pharmacies and doctors’ offices.


Debbie Frier, registered nurse, left, injects Leah Sawatsky, an emergency room nurse, right, with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at the Regina General Hospital in Regina on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020. (Michael Bell/The Canadian Press)

People will be asked to register for vaccination through an online platform or by phone. 

For more information about Saskatchewan’s vaccination plan, go here.

Manitoba

Manitoba’s immunization teams are now vaccinating residents at 1,400 congregate living sites, including hospitals, supportive housing facilities and assisted living sites. On February 19, immunization began in Brandon and Winnipeg.

The next eligible group includes health care workers who were not included in Phase 1, residents and staff of shared living facilities and essential workers.

Manitoba has set up a Vaccine Queue Calculator to allow Manitobans to estimate when they’ll receive their vaccines.

On March 5, the province expects to open two new “supersites” for large-scale vaccinations in Selkirk and the Morden-Winkler area, bringing the number of such sites to six. (Three are in Winnipeg, Brandon and Thompson, with a fourth facility at the airport outside Thompson.)


Michael David Blacksmith, a traditional ceremony and sun dance leader from Pimicikamak Cree Nation, is vaccinated at a pop-up site in Winnipeg. (Submitted by Government of Manitoba)

The province says it plans to expand to 13 supersites throughout Manitoba in April. It has hired 1,212 people to help with the vaccination effort.

More than 400 medical clinics and pharmacies have applied to be a part of the immunization campaign once a suitable vaccine is approved for use in these settings.

Manitobans with questions about the vaccination plan and their position in the queue can go to this website or call a toll-free number: 1-844-626-8222.

Ontario

Ontario’s vaccination rollout is in Phase 1, which covers staff and essential caregivers in long-term care homes, high-risk retirement homes and First Nations elder care homes, and highest-priority health care workers.

As the vaccine supply increases, Phase 1 is expected to move on to adults 80 years of age and older, staff, residents and caregivers in retirement homes and other congregate care settings, high priority health care workers, all Indigenous adults and adult recipients of chronic home care.

Phase 2 is set to begin in March. This phase will add more vaccination sites, including municipally run locations, hospital sites, mobile vaccination locations, pharmacies, clinics, community-run health centres and aboriginal health centres.


Ontario Premier Doug Ford watches a health care worker prepare a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN vaccine clinic in Toronto on January 7, 2021. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

Phase 3 covers the general population and is expected to begin by late summer.

The Ontario government is developing an online portal for mass vaccination pre-registration and appointment booking. For those without access to the internet, the province will establish a customer service desk to register and book appointments. Neighbourhood mobile clinics are being planned by local public health units. 

For more information about Ontario’s vaccination plan, go here.

Quebec

Quebec continues to inoculate priority groups such as health care workers on the front lines, those who live in long-term care or seniors’ homes (known as CHSLDs) and those living in remote areas.

Once more vaccines arrive, Quebec plans to expand inoculations to include seniors 70 and up and those with chronic health conditions that make them more vulnerable to COVID-19.

The province has started to prepare by securing mass vaccination sites, such as the Olympic Stadium.


A box of Pfizer/BioNTEch COVID-19 vaccine is taken from a UPS truck past news photographers to the Maimonides long-term care home in Montreal on December 14, 2020. (Quebec Ministry of Health and Social Services/Reuters)

It has already set up mass vaccination sites in major urban centres in anticipation of an increase in the vaccine supply.  One of them — the Palais des congrès de Montréal in the heart of downtown — expects to vaccinate up to 2,000 people per day.

Quebec’s health department says it’s planning a public information campaign to inform residents about the vaccination process.

For more information about Quebec’s vaccination plan, go here.

New Brunswick

Phase 1 is underway, covering long-term care residents and staff, front line health care staff, First Nations adults and individuals 85 and over.

Phase 2 starts in April and will include residents in other communal settings, health care workers providing direct patient care (such as pharmacists and dentists), firefighters, police officers, home support workers for seniors, people 70 and over, people with complex medical conditions, volunteers at long-term care homes, people 40 and over with three or more chronic conditions and truckers or workers who cross the Canada-U.S. border regularly.

The N.B. government’s website says that details about who can register for vaccination and when will be announced in the coming weeks. Clinic locations are also being finalized.


New Brunswick’s first shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine arrives on a cargo flight from Montreal. (Shane Magee/CBC)

The province is asking residents to wait for those details instead of tying up resources by calling the provincial tele-care number or their local health practitioners.

Prince Edward Island

P.E.I.’s vaccination effort is in its first phase, which will continue throughout March. Public health nurses had been delivering the vaccines; trained pharmacists were approved recently to administer the doses as well.

Those getting vaccinations in this phase are residents and staff of long-term care homes, health care workers in direct contact with patients who face an elevated risk of COVID-19 exposure, seniors 80 and older, adults 18 and older living in Indigenous communities, residents and staff of shared living facilities (such as group homes, shelters and correctional facilities) and truck drivers and other workers who routinely travel out of the province.

Starting February 22, vaccine clinics in P.E.I. will start giving doses to seniors aged 80 and older.

The province says other population groups will be told when they can be vaccinated as the rollout continues. The province expects to have four clinics in operation starting in March — in O’Leary, Summerside, Charlottetown and Montague.


Long-term care resident Art Johnston, 98, was the first person other than a health care worker to receive the COVID-19 vaccine on P.E.I. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

Vaccinations in P.E.I. are by appointment only. When their turns come up, Islanders can book their appointments by calling 1-844-975-3303 or by filling out a form available through this government website.

For more information about Prince Edward Island’s vaccination plan, go here.

Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia’s vaccination effort is in Phase 1. That covers those who work directly with patients in hospitals or care homes, people who live and work in long-term care homes and people who live and work in adult residential care centres and regional rehabilitation centres.

The next phase will include: anyone who works in a hospital (and might come into contact with patients); doctors, nurses, dentists, dental hygienists and pharmacists; people who live in correctional facilities, shelters and temporary foreign worker housing; people who are required to regularly travel for work (such as truck drivers); people responsible for food security (such as workers in large food processing plants); those aged 75 to 79 and those 80 and older.

N.S. Public Health is holding prototype clinics before deploying vaccines across the province.

The first prototype clinic — for seniors 80 years and older — will be at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax starting the week of Feb. 22. The province is planning to set up clinics in pharmacies as well.


Audrey Wiseman, 85, was one of the first long-term care residents in Nova Scotia to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. (Communications Nova Scotia)

Those at the head of the queue will receive letters from the province explaining how to schedule a vaccination appointment.

For more information about Nova Scotia’s vaccination plan, go here.

Newfoundland & Labrador

Newfoundland & Labrador is in Phase 1 of its immunization plan. Doses in this first phase are earmarked for congregate living settings for seniors, health care workers at high risk of exposure to COVID-19, people 85 and older and adults in remote or isolated Indigenous communities.

The next group to get shots will include health care workers who were not included in Phase 1, residents and staff of all other congregate living settings and essential workers. These categories are still being defined by the province and its health department says details of future phases are still being finalized.

For more information about Newfoundland & Labrador’s vaccination plan, go here.


Newfoundland and Labrador received its first shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Dec. 15, 2020. (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador)

Yukon

Priority groups in Yukon have received their first doses and, in some cases, their second doses as well.

As of Feb. 19, high-risk health care workers and long-term care residents and staff had received their second doses.

Those living in remote rural communities and people aged 65 and older are to start getting their second doses beginning the week of Feb. 22.

Over the past few weeks, every community outside Whitehorse has been visited by one of two mobile vaccine clinic teams (named ‘Balto’ and ‘Togo’) delivering first doses to all residents 18 and over.

In Whitehorse, a mass clinic will open on March 1 that will deliver up to 800 immunizations a day — both first and second doses.


Agnes Mills, 85, was the first person in Yukon to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. (Mark Kelly Photography/Government of Yukon)

All Whitehorse residents 18 years of age and older can now book appointments for their first shots.

Those living in Whitehorse must book appointments online or by calling 1-877-374-0425. In rural Yukon, where internet connectivity may be an issue, appointments are recommended but walk-ins are welcome.

For more information about Yukon’s vaccination plan, go here.

Northwest Territories

All NWT long-term care residents have received first and second doses. The NWT COVID-19 vaccine strategy says the general population can expect access to the vaccine in March.

The strategy says enough doses to immunize 75 per cent of eligible residents 18 years of age and older should be delivered by the end of March.

“This generous initial allocation from the federal government recognizes the territories’ limited health care system capacities and the vulnerabilities of remote Indigenous communities,” says the document.

The vaccine schedule and booking tool are now online and will be updated as more doses are delivered.


Chris Balla, the Beaufort Delta regional operations manager for Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority, is responsible for making sure vaccines and vaccinations teams make it to their final destinations. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC)

Those living in larger centres are expected to call or book online for their vaccinations. In smaller communities, meanwhile, dates and locations for vaccination clinics will be advertised and residents will be asked to show up.

Multiple small mobile vaccine units are travelling to 33 communities to help local health care staff administer doses.

For more information on NWT’s vaccination plan, go here.

Nunavut

Nunavut says it expects to have 75 per cent of its population over the age of 18 vaccinated by the end of March.

Nunavut is only using the Moderna vaccine right now and has been staging vaccine clinics in two or three communities at a time.

Beginning next week, seven communities will be getting their first doses of the vaccine.

In Iqaluit, vaccinations are by appointment only and are being directed toward elders 60 or older, those living in community shelters, front line health workers, Medivac flight crews, residents and staff of group homes and Iqaluit’s Akaausisarvik Mental Health Treatment Centre, and residents and staff of correctional facilities.


A Canadian North Flight lands on the tarmac in Iqaluit, Dec. 30, carrying Nunavut’s first doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. (Jackie McKay/CBC)

The next phase in Iqaluit is expected to begin in March.

Nunavut relays COVID-19 information through public service announcements via TV, social media, community radio and the government’s website. The website shows the locations of clinics, their times of operation and contact information.

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CBC | Health News

Incomplete national data makes it hard to assess exactly how far along Canada is on vaccination

Officials in Canada’s most populous province are not submitting key COVID-19 data to the federal government’s health agency, making it difficult to get a clear, national picture of how the first phase of the country’s vaccination program is progressing.

Since Dec. 19, provinces and territories have been reporting the number of people vaccinated in three target populations that are top priority groups in the first phase: adults living in group settings, adults over the age of 80 and health workers.

The data is gathered by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and published once a week on its vaccine coverage website — with one key exception.

“Data for Ontario are not included,” reads a disclaimer on the PHAC site.

The reason given is that the province’s data is “not broken down by key population groups.”

In an email in response to CBC’s request for more information, a spokesperson for Ontario’s Ministry of Health said the ministry is working with PHAC to provide more data in “the near future.”

In a statement released on Sunday, the chair of the province’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution task force outlined a list of priority recipients for vaccination that included some health-care workers and adults aged 80 and over as “next priority” groups.

The ministry also provided some general estimates to CBC of its progress vaccinating some of the key populations so far. 

It said that as of Tuesday:

  • More than 63,800 long term care (LTC) residents have received at least one dose.
  • More than 33,900 retirement home (RH) residents have received at least one dose.
  • More than 42,700 LTC residents have received two doses
  • More than 17,600 RH residents have received two doses.

As of 8 p.m. ET Tuesday:

  • 176,279 doses were administered to health-care workers targeted for priority vaccination.
  • 84,385 doses were administered to LTC health-care workers.
  • 25,660 doses were administered to retirement home health-care workers.

Trudeau says Canada entering ‘big lift’ phase of vaccination

The latest PHAC numbers are from Feb. 6. But even with the time lag and the missing Ontario information, this data is one of the best measurements Canadians currently have of how the country is actually doing when it comes to vaccinating those first in line — as they try to predict when the general public will be able to get inoculated.

PHAC’s “health-care workers targeted for priority vaccination” category is progressing most quickly. A reported cumulative total of 397,154 people in that category have received at least one vaccine dose, representing 55.35 per cent of the priority group.

That group is followed by the “seniors in group living settings,” with a reported cumulative total of 149,305 people, or 52.74 per cent, having received at least one dose.

Finally, a reported 116,600 adults over the age of 80 have received at least one dose, which works out to 11.57 per cent.

Over the weekend, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) updated its guidance on which groups will be prioritized in the second phase of COVID-19 immunization.

It recommends that health-care workers not included in the initial rollout, essential workers and people living and working in group settings such as correctional facilities and homeless shelters be prioritized.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, announced the update  on Twitter with upbeat hashtags and an invitation to Canadians to “rejoice” over a decline in COVID-19 activity.


On Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau struck a similarly hopeful tone when he spoke of a “big lift” phase of the vaccine rollout in coming weeks and reiterated his promise that every Canadian who wants a shot will get one by the end of September.

But with winter weather delaying vaccine shipments, a recent variant outbreak in Newfoundland and Labrador, and uncertainty around how prepared provinces are to ramp up vaccinations, it’s unclear how that promise will play out.

Provinces and territories decide

Ultimately, as PHAC stated in an email to CBC News, each province and territory is responsible for the “deployment and prioritization of the vaccination, via their public health authorities on the ground.”

The NACI guidelines are just that — a compass designed to help them navigate the ethical and logistical challenges involved with mass immunization.

Two months into the effort, fewer than one per cent of Canadians have been fully vaccinated.

To keep the federal government’s September deadline, Canada will need to administer more than 265,000 doses a day over the next 226 days to fully vaccinate 30 million people.

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CBC | Health News

Los Angeles closes mass COVID-19 vaccination sites due to lack of supply

The latest:

A COVID-19 vaccine shortage has forced California to temporarily close five mass vaccination sites, all in Los Angeles, including one at Dodger Stadium.

Over the past week, state health officials say they have received less than 20 per cent of the doses they need to maintain the sites.

Mayor Eric Garcetti said the city would exhaust its supply of Moderna first doses — two are required for full immunization — forcing it to close drive-thru and walk-up vaccination sites Friday and Saturday.

According to the Los Angeles Times, however, the sites closed even earlier than expected after running out of doses on Thursday.

They may not reopen until the city gets more supplies, perhaps next Tuesday or Wednesday. Smaller mobile vaccination clinics will continue operating.

WATCH | Procurement minister updates Canadians on AstraZeneca vaccine supply:

Procurement Minister Anita Anand provides an update on Canada’s expected AstraZeneca vaccine supply. 3:00

California leads the United States in COVID-19 deaths with 45,496, edging past New York’s toll of 45,312, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Vaccine supply constraints are slowing ambitious vaccination programs in the U.S., as massive sites capable of putting shots into thousands of arms daily in states including New York, California, Florida and Texas, as well as hospitals and pharmacies, beg for more doses.

The U.S. has seen more than 27.3 million cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began and more than 475,000 deaths, according to a tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. 

In-person schooling can resume safely with masks, physical distancing and other strategies, but vaccination of teachers, while important, is not a prerequisite for reopening, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.

The CDC released its long-awaited road map for getting students back to classrooms in the middle of a pandemic. But its guidance is just that — the agency cannot force schools to reopen, and agency officials were careful to say they are not calling for a mandate that all U.S. schools be reopened.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, on Thursday predicted that it will be “open season” for COVID-19 vaccinations in the United States by April as increased supply allows most people to get shots.

WATCH | Trudeau on Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine supply:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on Canada’s Pfizer and Moderna vaccine supply. 1:51

Speaking to NBC’s Today Show, the science adviser to U.S. President Joe Biden said the rate of vaccinations will greatly accelerate in the coming months. He credits forthcoming deliveries of the two approved vaccines, the potential approval of a third and moves by the Biden administration to increase the nation’s capacity to deliver doses.

Fauci said that “by the time we get to April,” it will be “open season, namely virtually everybody and anybody in any category could start to get vaccinated.” He cautioned it will take “several more months” to deliver injections to adult Americans but predicted the “overwhelming majority” of people in the U.S. could be vaccinated by the middle and end of the summer.


What’s happening in Canada

WATCH  | See some of what experts had to say about Ontario’s latest COVID-19 modelling and hear what it might mean for people in the province:

Dr. Zain Chagla tells CBC News that reopening is fine provided the province can shut down again quickly, if there’s a jump in new cases. 3:37

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, says people need to continue what they’ve been doing but with “even more diligence” to counter the more contagious variants that have been identified in several provinces.

Speaking at a briefing on Friday, Tam said that means keeping up “individual public health practices” to limit spread, protecting the vulnerable and allowing time for vaccination programs to expand.

WATCH | Tam on why provinces are not using COVID-19 rapid tests:

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, responds to questions about why she thinks provinces are not using their supplies of COVID-19 rapid tests. 0:58 

As of Friday, eight provinces had reported more than 429 cases of the B117 variant, which was first detected in the U.K., she said.

There were also 28 recorded cases of the B1351 variant, which was first reported in South Africa, and one case of the P1 variant blamed for a surge of cases in Brazil. 

“At least three of these provinces are reporting evidence of community spread ” and variants have been “linked to outbreaks.”

The federal government on Friday announced it is stepping up its capacity to identify and track cases of COVID-19 variants of concern with a $ 53-million investment.

“Funding will expand upon existing public health networks to establish regional clinical and public health teams to quickly identify and characterize variants of concern,” a statement from the Public Health Agency of Canada said.

According to PHAC, the increased funding will “help rapidly scale up our surveillance, sequencing and research efforts.”

Starting Feb. 22, airline travellers landing in Canada will have to quarantine in a hotel at their own expense, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday.

Health Minister Patty Hajdu said arriving passengers will need to take a COVID-19 test and book a government-approved hotel as they await results in the city in which they first arrive in Canada, either Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto or Montreal.

WATCH | An infectious disease expert on new international travel measures:

CBC News Network’s Andrew Nichol’s speaks with Dr. Chakrabarti hours after the Canadian government announces new testing, and quarantine measures for all travellers coming into Canada. 6:29 

If the test result is negative, the traveller can leave for home or catch their connecting flight to their final destination. Those who test positive will be sent to another designated government quarantine facility.

The testing requirement is in addition to the mandatory 14-day quarantine period for returning non-essential travellers.

As of 5:30 p.m. ET on Friday, Canada had reported 819,866 cases of COVID-19 — with 36,914 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 21,152.

Ontario on Friday reported 1,076 cases of COVID-19 and 18 additional deaths. COVID-19 hospitalizations stood at 763, with 295 people in intensive care units.

The Ontario government on Friday issued a list of regions that will remain under a stay-at-home order while others transition into a colour-coded framework of restrictions, as of Feb. 16.

The only regions not transitioning out of the stay-at-home order on that date include Peel and York regions, Toronto and North Bay Parry Sound District.


In Quebec, health officials reported 984 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday and 25 additional deaths on Friday. COVID-19 hospitalizations stood at 849, with 137 people in intensive care units, according to an update published by the province on Friday.

In Atlantic Canada, Nova Scotia reported no new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, while New Brunswick reported five new cases.

Newfoundland and Labrador on Friday reported 50 new cases of COVID-19, a day after it reported a single-day high of 100 new cases.

Faced with rising COVID-19 case numbers in the St. John’s area, the province’s chief electoral officer on Thursday delayed voting for the provincial election in almost half of the province’s 40 districts. In 18 districts, in-person voting will be rescheduled and won’t go ahead as planned on Saturday.

There were no new cases reported in Prince Edward Island on Thursday.

In Manitoba, Premier Brian Pallister announced a plan to procure a made-in-Canada vaccine that is in early trial stages.

The province on Friday reported 81 new COVID-19 cases and four additional deaths. There are now 240 COVID-19 patients in hospital in Manitoba, the government said in a release, down by four from Thursday, with 29 of those people in intensive care, down by three.

WATCH | Manitoba buys its own made-in-Canada COVID-19 vaccine:

Manitoba is the first province to buy its own COVID-19 vaccine rather than relying on the federal government. 1:53

Saskatchewan reported 195 new cases of COVID-19 and two more deaths from the respiratory illness on Friday. There are currently 182 people in hospital due to COVID-19, 23 of whom are in intensive care.

In Alberta, health officials reported 314 new cases of COVID-19 and 16 more deaths on Friday.

British Columbia reported 449 new cases of COVID-19 and nine additional deaths on Thursday.

Across the North, Nunavut reported three new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday in the community in Arviat, while health officials in the Northwest Territories reported one new case. There were no new cases reported in Yukon.

Here’s a look at what else is happening across Canada:


What’s happening around the world


A student gets a bag of food during a distribution organized by Linkee, a solidarity solution to food waste, in Paris on Thursday. (Benoit Tessier/Reuters)

As of Friday, more than 108 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 60.5 million of those cases listed as recovered or resolved in a database maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 2.3 million.

In Europe, Portugal is getting more help from its European Union partners to ease pressure on hospitals crunched by the pandemic, with France and Luxembourg the latest countries to offer medical workers.

The Portuguese health ministry said France is sending a doctor and three nurses, while Luxembourg is providing two doctors and two nurses. The health ministry said in a statement late Thursday the medics should arrive next week.

The German army sent eight doctors and 18 nurses earlier this month to help at a Lisbon hospital. The number of COVID-19 patients in hospital and in intensive care fell Thursday for the third straight day, but Portugal’s seven-day average of daily deaths remained the world’s highest, at 1.97 per 100,000 people, according to Johns Hopkins University.


Nurses tend to a patient in a COVID-19 intensive care unit at the Curry Cabral hospital in Lisbon, Portugal on Thursday. (Armando Franca/The Associated Press)

In Germany, the health minister said he will consider introducing penalties for people who jump the queue for coronavirus vaccines. Jens Spahn told reporters in Berlin on Friday that there had been several such reports in recent days and the government would discuss with parliament “whether sanctions in this area could make sense.”

Spahn had previously downplayed the issue of queue jumping, but persistent reports have surfaced of senior officials in hospitals and cities getting the vaccines before doctors and nurses. This week the Catholic bishop of Augsburg acknowledged receiving the vaccine, despite being far down the priority list.

Patient rights campaigners warned Spahn last year that Germany’s complicated vaccination system could open the door to corruption and queue jumping, but the ministry rebuffed repeated calls for criminal penalties.

In Africa, South Africa has secured millions of doses of Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer vaccines to fight the highly infectious COVID-19 variant that is dominant in the country.

Kenya is going ahead with its plan to inoculate its citizens using AstraZeneca’s vaccine, while Zimbabwe has bought 600,000 shots from China’s Sinopharm, in addition to 200,000 China has donated.

In the Asia-Pacific region, the first batch of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Japan on Friday, local media reported, with official approval for the shots expected within days as the country races to control a third wave of infections ahead of the Olympic Games.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Friday the country’s COVID-19 inoculation program will likely begin on Feb. 20, brought forward by the earlier receipt of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine than originally anticipated.

Australia’s second-largest city will begin its third lockdown as a results of a rapidly spreading COVID-19 cluster centred on hotel quarantine.

The five-day lockdown will be enforced across Victoria state to prevent the virus spreading from the state capital Melbourne, Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said. Only international flights that were already in the air when the lockdown was announced would be allowed to land at Melbourne Airport.

WATCH | Australia’s Victoria state enters a ‘short, sharp’ circuit-breaker lockdown:

It’s a necessary circuit breaker to limit further spread of COVID-19, officials said. A highly contagious strain, first reported in the U.K., was detected at a quarantine hotel in Melbourne. 1:32

A population of 6.5 million people will be locked down from 11:59 p.m. until the same time on Wednesday because of a contagious variant of the virus first detected at a Melbourne Airport hotel that has infected 13 people.

In the Americas, Mexico’s Health Ministry on Thursday reported 10,677 new confirmed coronavirus cases and 1,474 more fatalities from COVID-19, bringing the overall total to 1,968,566 cases and 171,234 deaths. The government said the real number of infected people and the death toll in Mexico are both likely significantly higher than reported levels.

In the Middle East, Israel began reopening its education system on Thursday after a more than six-week closure because of the surge in coronavirus infections.

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CBC | World News

Canada won’t receive any Pfizer shots next week — here’s what you need to know about the vaccination campaign

Canada’s vaccination campaign is off to a slow start — and news this week that deliveries of the Pfizer-BioNTech product will be reduced dramatically over the next month has further complicated the national rollout.

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the military commander leading vaccine logistics at the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), has said Pfizer will not ship a single vial of its highly effective vaccine to Canada next week as the pharmaceutical giant retools its production facility in Puurs, Belgium to boost capacity.

The announcement is already prompting some provinces to warn that they will have to curtail appointments in the weeks ahead as they direct the existing supply of the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to patients who need their second shots.

Why is Canada getting less vaccine than anticipated?

Pfizer is grappling with unprecedented global demand for its vaccine as the world scrambles to inoculate patients against the deadly novel coronavirus.

While the company had projected it could manufacture up to 1.3 billion shots this year alone, it is now shifting gears to pump out even more.

The company is making upgrades to its Belgian plant so that it can manufacture up to 2 billion doses this year to meet the insatiable demand. In order to complete those upgrades, some production lines will have to be idled and Pfizer won’t have enough vials to go around in the short term to meet its previously promised delivery schedule.

“Pfizer and BioNTech are working relentlessly to support the further rollout of the vaccination campaigns worldwide by not only expanding their own manufacturing capacities but also by adding further suppliers as well as contract manufacturers to increase total manufacturing capacity,” the company said in a news release announcing the disruptions.


A driver pulls his truck out of the Pfizer plant in Puurs, Belgium on Monday, Dec. 21, 2020. (Valentin Bianchi/AP Photo)

Fortin has said that, starting next week, Canada’s deliveries will be reduced by up to 50 per cent over a four-week period, punting as many as 400,000 doses to a later date.

While the company has another manufacturing facility in Kalamazoo, Mich., the Belgian plant alone is supplying Canada, the European Union and the United Kingdom. U.S. deliveries will continue uninterrupted.

Will Canada, the EU and the United Kingdom be equally affected by these disruptions?

No. Announcing the delays last week, Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand said she expects Pfizer will treat all countries equally as it reduces shipments with an eye to restoring service in February.

But Pfizer isn’t treating every customer the same way. While Canada will receive zero doses next week, the company said it “will be back to the original schedule of deliveries to the European Union beginning the week of January 25.”

Pfizer has promised the EU that it will then “increase delivery beginning week of February 15, resulting in our ability to deliver the fully committed quantity of vaccine doses in the first quarter and significantly more in the second quarter.”


Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand and Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin look on as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responds to a question during a news conference in Ottawa on Dec. 7, 2020. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

When asked why Pfizer will not make the same commitment to Canada, Anand said that she expects the company to treat all countries equitably — but could not say why Canada has been singled out.

“This was very disappointing and I spent the weekend on the phone with Pfizer executives and my team. We reiterated firmly the importance for Canada to return to our regular delivery schedule as soon as possible,” she said at a press conference Tuesday.

Pfizer did not respond to specific questions about why it is showing more favourable treatment to the EU. In an emailed statement, the company said the details of its agreements with governments are “confidential.”

“Multiple countries around the world will be impacted in the short term in order for us to quickly enable increased production volumes afterwards,” the spokesperson said. 

The U.K. delivery schedule is less clear. The government there has said it is “in close contact” with all suppliers so that it can achieve its target of immunizing all those over age 70 by February 15.

So how many doses will Canada receive over the next number of weeks?

It’s hard to say for sure. Fortin had said Canada would see a 75 per cent drop next week in deliveries — but then had to correct that forecast after learning Canada wouldn’t receive a single dose.

Just last week, Fortin had been expecting delivery of 208,650 doses to the provinces every week for the rest of this month. Fortin also said Canada is expected to receive 366,000 Pfizer doses per week in February.

Speaking to the press this week, Fortin conceded those numbers are no longer accurate.

“Those numbers remain to be confirmed by Pfizer Canada. In fact, we have regular conversations with them and we hope and we expect to have clarity on those numbers,” Fortin told reporters at a public health briefing.

Is Canada still on track to get 4 million doses of the Pfizer product by the end of March?

The government has said yes. While the deliveries may change, the government insists its medium-term targets are more certain.

By the end of the first quarter, Canada is expecting four million doses from Pfizer and another two million doses from Moderna — enough to vaccinate some 3 million Canadians with these two-dose products.

WATCH | Canada affected by Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine production delay in Europe:

Federal Procurement Minister Anita Anand made the announcement to reporters in Ottawa on Friday. 2:38

But these delays mean that many people will be kept waiting much longer for shots than they originally anticipated. While deliveries might return to a more normal flow, it will be difficult for provinces to pump through hundreds of thousands of patients in a short timeframe to reach vaccination targets.

The delivery hiccup also could push off the vaccination campaign for the general population, which had a start date of April 1.

Pharmacies have said they could vaccinate as many 2.5 million people per week if all 11,500 community pharmacies in this country are mobilized, but the lack of supply has delayed their participation in the effort.

Data released by PHAC Thursday suggest 10 million more people could be fully vaccinated between April and June, for a cumulative total of 13 million people inoculated since the start of the campaign.

And if other vaccines apart from the Pfizer and Moderna products are approved over that time period, 10 million more patients could complete the vaccine regime by the end of June, for a combined total of 23 million.

The PHAC data also suggest that 36 million Canadians can be vaccinated by the end of September, if all goes well and there aren’t any significant delivery disruptions in the interim.

What is Prime Minister Justin Trudeau doing about this Pfizer delay?

While the prime minister of Israel has had more than a dozen calls with the CEO of Pfizer, and the president of the European Union has personally reached out to the company’s leadership, Trudeau has said that Anand is the lead on this file.

“I can assure you that Minister Anand is talking almost daily with Pfizer and the other vaccine companies to ensure that we get as many doses as possible, as quickly as possible, and that work will continue,” he said. “We will not rest, we will not slow down.”


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, and his Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, second left, attend the arrival of plane with a shipment of Pfizer coronavirus vaccines at Ben Gurion Airport, near the city of Lod, Israel, on Jan. 10, 2021. (Motti Millrod/AP Photo)

When pressed by Vassy Kapelos, host of CBC’s Power & Politics, to state whether Trudeau has personally contacted Pfizer to ask for more doses, Anand would only say that she has been in “close communication” with the prime minister.

Some observers have said Trudeau should ask U.S. President Joe Biden to temporarily float Canada some vaccines from the Michigan plant as a sign of goodwill — especially after Biden rescinded the presidential permits for the Keystone XL pipeline.

So how are the provinces reacting to all this?

Not well. Ontario Premier Doug Ford has said the delivery delays will be very disruptive. The province also has said the temporary stoppage could mean its goal of immunizing all long-term care residents in the province by Feb. 15 won’t be achieved.

“If I was in (Trudeau’s) shoes … I’d be on that phone call every single day. I’d be up that guy’s yin-yang so far with a firecracker he wouldn’t know what hit him,” he said of Pfizer’s executives. “I would not stop until we get these vaccines.”

On Wednesday, Ford called Pfizer Canada President Cole Pinnow to discuss the situation.

“He reiterated the serious impact these cancelled shipments will have on Ontario and sought answers as to why Canada isn’t receiving vaccines as quickly as other countries,” Ford’s office said in a media statement after the call.

Ford also has suggested Biden should “help out its neighbour” by releasing some shots to Canada.


Ontario Premier Doug Ford watches a health care worker prepare a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said Tuesday the province is putting a temporary hold on the first dose of COVID-19 vaccinations to ensure it has enough vaccine to provide a second dose to people who have already received their first shot.

“By pausing first appointments, we can ensure enough vaccine is allocated for committed second-dose appointments,” Kenney said.

How is Canada doing compared to the rest of the world?

Canada has administered some 700,000 shots – roughly 1.7 per cent of the population has received at least one dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna products. In Ontario, about 40,000 people have been fully vaccinated against the virus.

The United States has vaccinated three times more people per capita than Canada.

The U.K., too, has been a world leader in getting shots into the arms of patients. Nearly 7.5 per cent of the British and Northern Irish population has so far received at least one dose.

Canada’s vaccination effort has also been outpaced to date by those in Bahrain, Denmark, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Lithuania, Malta, Slovenia, Spain and the United Arab Emirates, among others.

But according to the latest data collated by the University of Oxford-based Our World in Data, Canada has administered more shots per capita than G7 partners like Germany and France, and middle-income countries like Argentina and Costa Rica.

“I had a lovely conversation with Angela Merkel yesterday morning in which she sort of complained to me that every day she gets it from the German media that they’re not doing as well as Canada,” Trudeau told reporters Tuesday.

“I think a lot of people are comparing stories from country to country and trying to figure out how we can all move quicker.”

The EU authorized the Moderna product for use two weeks after Health Canada regulators gave that vaccine the necessary approvals, which could account for the slower start to vaccination campaigns in countries like Germany.

What about the other promising vaccine candidates?

Health Canada regulators are still reviewing clinical trial data for both the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson products. Canada has placed orders for doses from these companies but a delivery schedule is far from certain, given that the regulatory review is still underway.

The U.K. approved the AstraZeneca vaccine on Dec. 30.

The product from Johnson & Johnson’s pharmaceutical division, Janssen, has not been approved for use anywhere in the world. Some countries are eager to secure doses of this vaccine because it only requires one shot.

The company has not yet presented publicly any final data on its effectiveness, although some early results, published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, are promising.

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CBC | Health News