COVID-19 vaccine in Canada: 'We will immunize as many Canadians as possible, as quickly as possible,' health officials say

Elisabetta Bianchini
·2 min read

Federal officials provided more information on Canada’s vaccine distribution plan, once a COVID-19 vaccine is approved for immunization in the country. Initial supply will be limited to 3 million Canadians in early 2021, and officials are working on identifying high priority groups that will benefit from sooner vaccinations to reduce the spread. Despite the staggered release, there will be enough vaccine for every Canadian.

“At this time, we are preparing for one of the most ambitious and complex vaccination programs ever delivered in this country,” Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer said. “We will immunize as many Canadians as possible, as quickly as possible, and ensure that high-risk populations are prioritized.”

Dr. Supriya Sharma, a senior medical advisor with Health Canada, indicated the review process for the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine in particular is “progressing very well.”

COVID-19 in Canada
COVID-19 in Canada

“We’re waiting for some key pieces of information that will be coming in over the next few days, part of that information is really around the manufacturing process and which specific lot may be destined for Canada,” Dr. Sharma said. “It’s really important that we get that information, and we have good information about the quality assurance checks on those.”

Dr. Njoo said there are still “a lot of moving parts” in terms of vaccine approval and distribution and a decision is expected “soon,” particularly for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

“Certainly we expect it to be a favourable one,” he said.

Dr. Sharma told CBC’s The Current that she expects the final decision on the approval of the Pfizer vaccine will be made “within the next week to 10 days.”

Canada prepares for ‘dry run’ of vaccine arrival

Major-General Dany Fortin, the vice president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada and head of the country's vaccine distribution efforts, indicated the military will undergo a dry run of logistics and distribution procedures on Dec. 7 to prepare for when vaccines will arrive in Canada, expected for early 2021.

“Our job is to sort out the logistics of it all, the plan to execute the distribution to ensure Canadians can be safely immunized against COVID-19 as quickly as possible,” Major-General Fortin said. “There will be multiple vaccines that will move from manufacturers through provinces and territories in the coming weeks and months.”

The Pfizer vaccine, which must be stored at ultra-cold temperatures, will be delivered directly from the manufacturer to the point where the vaccination will be given, transported by assets controlled by the manufacturer. Other vaccines will be delivered by a federally contracted logistics service provider from the manufacturer to the point of delivery, identified by each province and territory.

“Ultimately, each provincial and territorial government is responsible for deciding how to deploy COVID-19 vaccines within their jurisdiction, and immunizing Canadians with the support of provincial and territorial healthcare workers,” Dr. Njoo said.