A vial of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is shown at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

A vial of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is shown at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Feds expect Pfizer to start ramping up vaccine deliveries to Canada this week

Canada’s vaccination efforts slowed to a crawl as Pfizer upgraded its plant in Belgium

Canada’s sluggish COVID-19 vaccination efforts are expected to get a big boost starting this week as the federal government prepares for a ramp up in the delivery of shots from Pfizer-BioNTech following a month-long lull.

The Public Health Agency of Canada has stated on its website that it expects more than 335,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to be delivered this week, though the company says the figure will be closer to 400,000.

That is because the health agency’s number is based on five doses per vial, even though the federal government recently agreed with Pfizer’s request to have six doses administered per vial.

Either way, the expected delivery will represent the single largest shipment to Canada since the start of the pandemic as Pfizer continues scaling up production after a month-long slowdown while it expanded a plant in Belgium.

Canada’s vaccination efforts slowed to a crawl during that time, taking delivery of 339,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine between Jan. 18 and last week rather than the promised 1.15 million.

Pfizer is expected to deliver an even larger shipment next week, and has said it will make good on its promise to deliver a total of 4 million doses by the end of March.

The new deliveries will be welcomed by provinces and territories, which have administered the vast majority of the vaccines that they have received.

They will also likely ease some of the pressure on the federal Liberal government, which has been accused of mismanaging what amounts to the largest mass-vaccination effort in Canadian history.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last week acknowledged the struggle with deliveries, but said things will get better in the weeks ahead, and even better than that in April, when Canada is expecting as many as one million doses a week.

“We’re approaching something we’re calling the big lift,” he said Thursday in a virtual roundtable with nurses and doctors from around Canada.

Yet the problems aren’t entirely over. Moderna — the other company whose vaccine has been approved for use in Canada so far — has confirmed its next shipment on Feb. 22 will be only 168,000 doses, two-thirds of what had been promised.

Moderna, which delivers once every three weeks, shipped 180,000 doses last week — 80 per cent of the promised amount.

In addition, Pfizer’s deliveries will only meet the promised number of doses if medical professionals can adjust to extracting six doses instead of five from every vial.

Getting that sixth dose requires the use of a low dead-volume syringe, which traps less vaccine in the needle and syringe after an injection.

Canada has now ordered 72 million of those syringes, and two million were delivered last week.

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the military commander overseeing Canada’s vaccine distribution, has said those are being shipped to the provinces to be ready for Monday, though no provinces reported receiving any as of Thursday.

Provincial governments are also concerned about how easy it will be to get that sixth dose, even with the special syringes.

To date, Canada has received about 928,000 doses from Pfizer and 515,000 from Moderna.

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

Coronavirusvaccines

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

File photo
Gov’t of Alberta identifies estimated 300 new COVID-19 cases Sunday

Online COVID-19 dashboard unavailable as upgrades being completed

COVID
Red Deer down to 313 active cases of COVID-19

Alberta reports an additional 411 COVID-19 cases

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Alex Panetta
Economists “cautiously hopeful” for economic recovery in Alberta

Charles St. Arnaud says Alberta’s recovery will rebound along with roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw acknowledged that Friday would be one year since the first case of COVID-19 was identified in the province. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Three more Red Deer COVID-19 deaths, 331 active cases in Alberta

Red Deer is down to 362 active cases of the virus

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
‘It’s been a good week’: Tam hopeful on vaccines as pandemic anniversary nears

Tam says the addition of two new vaccines will help Canadians get immunized faster

Kiara Robillard is seen in an undated handout photo. When the pandemic began, Robillard had to rush back home to Alberta from California, where she had been living for five years, after she was struck by a truck that broke her spine in two places. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Kiara Robillard, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
‘It kind of clicks:’ Text4Hope program helps with depression, anxiety during pandemic

Participants receive one text message every morning for three months

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

Supporters rally outside court as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church is in court to appeal bail conditions, after he was arrested for holding day services in violation of COVID-19 rules, in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Law remains valid:’ Pastor accused of violating health orders to remain in jail

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing the pastor

A decommissioned pumpjack is shown at a well head on an oil and gas installation near Cremona, Alta., Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016. The Alberta Energy Regulator says it is suspending all of the licences held by an oil and gas producer with more than 2,200 wells and 2,100 pipelines after it failed to bring its operations into compliance. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Alberta Energy Regulator suspends licences of oil and gas producer that owes $67M

The company is being asked to comply with past orders to clean up historic spills and contamination

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa Friday, March 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau holds firm on premiers’ health-care funding demands, COVID-19 aid comes first

Premiers argue that the current amount doesn’t keep pace with yearly cost increases of about five per cent

Seniors in the 65-unit Piper Creek Lodge are among those waiting for COVID-19 vaccinations. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Central Alberta senior lodges anxiously waiting for COVID-19 vaccinations

“Should be at the front of the line, not the back of the line”

Most Read