Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand said today that vaccine maker Moderna has confirmed two million more doses will arrive in Canada over the next two weeks, with "millions" more to follow at the end of June.
Even with that new commitment, Moderna is still a long way from keeping its promise to deliver 12.3 million doses in the April-through-June period.
The Massachusetts-based company has been tight-lipped in recent weeks about how many shots it will send to Canada as it grapples with production issues at plants in Europe.
Anand said 500,000 doses will be delivered over the week of May 31, with 1.5 million more to follow sometime before June 14.
Until today, the federal government has said it's been unable to provide a firm delivery schedule — beyond a commitment that "millions" of Moderna shots would arrive in the coming months.
Speaking to reporters at a vaccine briefing Thursday, Brig.-Gen. Krista Brodie, the military officer in charge of vaccine logistics, said Canada may receive fewer doses than originally expected because of ongoing delays with Moderna.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Anand had said that between 48 and 50 million shots from AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna and Pfizer would be delivered by the end of June.
Brodie said that the figure is likely now closer to 40 million and Canada will hit the 50 million mark at the end of July — a month later than Trudeau's projection in April.
"Moderna has had certain difficulties increasing their production to deliver more doses in the timeframe we expected," said Joelle Paquette, the director general responsible for vaccine procurement at Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC).
The government is working with Moderna to "firm up" the delivery schedule, Paquette said. She promised more information about additional June deliveries soon — something she and other PSPC officials have been saying for weeks.
Moderna has pledged to send 14.3 million doses to Canada in the first six months of this year. So far, it has delivered just 5.6 million.
The new deliveries announced Thursday bring the total number of doses delivered and confirmed shipments to 7.6 million, meaning the company will have to send 6.7 million shots in the last two weeks of June to meet its contractual obligations. Moderna has never shipped that many shots to Canada in a two-week period.
The mRNA shot from the Massachusetts-based company is the second-most frequently used COVID-19 vaccine product in Canada.
The company — which had never before brought a drug to market — has had trouble meeting insatiable global demand for its vaccine.
While Canada was among the first countries to sign a procurement deal with Moderna, the company has had to cancel shipments or punt deliveries to later dates as it has struggled with production issues.
Because the U.S. government invested heavily in the early research and development of this product, Moderna had to send a certain number of doses to the American marketplace — an obligation that has resulted in reduced shipments to other countries.
The company, which has few facilities on its own, relies on third-party finish-and-fill companies to churn out its product and ship it overseas.
Pfizer to deliver 2 million shots a week until the end of July
While Moderna has been slow to provide concrete details about future shipments, the company's principal competitor, Pfizer, has set its delivery schedule for the next two months.
More than 17 million Pfizer shots have been distributed to the provinces and territories so far and at least two million more shots are expected to arrive each week until the end of July.
Some extra doses are to be shipped in June, with deliveries rising to 2.4 million a week that month. Brodie said Pfizer also has committed to delivering 2.3 million doses weekly in July.
Canada has procured 48 million doses from the pharmaceutical giant — enough to fully vaccinate 24 million people.
At least 18 million of those shots will arrive in the July-through-September period. The expectation is most of those shots will be used to administer second doses for the millions of Canadians who've already had a shot of this product.
As for AstraZeneca — the third most commonly used product in Canada's vaccination campaign — Brodie said officials are "continuing to work with stakeholders to ensure sufficient supply of AstraZeneca for second doses."
The provinces have suspended the use of AstraZeneca for all people who need a first shot because of the risk of developing vaccine-induced thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT) — blood clots combined with low levels of blood platelets following immunization.
Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada's deputy chief public health officer, said Thursday that public health officials have so far identified 41 suspected cases of VITT. That's an increase of 13 from the 28 cases reported on May 13.
"Among confirmed VITT cases, sadly, five deaths have been reported. We offer our most sincere condolences to the families and friends of those who have passed away," Njoo said.
"Don't hesitate to ask a health care provider if you have any concerns about symptoms after receiving your vaccine."