Temporary Pfizer vaccine delays are 'largely behind us,' procurement minister says

·3 min read
Temporary Pfizer vaccine delays are 'largely behind us,' procurement minister says

Federal Procurement Minister Anita Anand says Canadians can soon expect the country's COVID-19 inoculation campaign to pick up steam after Canada's vaccine rollout was temporarily beset by delivery delays and reduced shipments of doses.

"The temporary delays that we have seen are largely behind us," Anand said Sunday on Rosemary Barton Live.

"The delays that we saw from Europe, from Pfizer, for example, were very disappointing and very concerning to me and to our government. But I have received assurances from the vaccine manufacturers that those delays are temporary and that we are very much on track," the minister added.

Pfizer scaled back its delivery schedule last month as the pharmaceutical company upgraded its manufacturing plant in Belgium to boost production of its vaccine.

It's also unclear how many Moderna doses Canada will receive in the coming weeks, with Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin — the military commander leading Canada's vaccine logistics — saying the government is in the dark about how many shots are coming over the next two months.

The Massachusetts-based company has not provided an explanation for the reduced shipments.

Rollout to ramp up mid-February

Anand, however, has backed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's target of receiving six million COVID-19 shots by the end of March.

The minister told CBC Chief Political Correspondent Rosemary Barton that she has received "solid confirmation" from suppliers that four million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech product and another two million from Moderna will arrive by that deadline.

Canada should be prepared for the country's vaccine rollout to speed up in the weeks and months ahead, Anand said.

"From February 15 onwards, it's going to be a steep incline, and the provinces and territories should be aware that that is going to occur. And we're going to need to have all hands on deck for the rollout of large-scale vaccines coming in."

Based on the federal government's forecasted allocations, Canada can expect to receive just over 70,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in the coming week, with that number rocketing to about 336,000 by the week of Feb. 15.

Vaccine agreement spending expected to increase

According to last year's fall economic statement, the federal government spent more than $1 billion on its portfolio of vaccine agreements.

But that figure will change, Anand said, because of developments that have happened in that time.

Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press
Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

"For example, we purchased options of both Pfizer and Moderna late in 2020. And in addition, we finalized the [advanced purchase agreement] with Novavax. So we will come back to you with a revised number," she said.

Anand said details of those contracts can't be released without an agreement from the pharmaceutical companies, "which is ... a conversation that I'm involved in right now."

Last month, the European Union published a redacted version of its contract with AstraZeneca amid a dispute over delivery delays.

"We, as a government, are loath to undermine, indeed violate, those confidentiality clauses and put our vaccine procurements at risk. That would be a very dangerous situation from a health and safety standpoint," Anand said.

In a separate interview, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh told Barton that while he hopes Canada reaches its goal of vaccinating all Canadians who want a shot by September, he also wants to see more transparency from the Liberal government

"We know with the Moderna vaccine, we don't know how many doses we'll receive next week or the week after. So the lack of clarity, the lack of details is really eroding that trust."

You can watch full episodes of Rosemary Barton Live on CBC Gem, the CBC's streaming service.