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COVID-19 vaccines coming by as early as next week: Trudeau

Monday, December 07, 2020 @ 4:16 PM | By Terry Davidson

Canada will be receiving “early” doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine before the end of the year, said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during an address to the nation.

On Dec. 7, it was announced Canada will begin receiving up to 249,000 doses of the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine as early as next week as part of the country’s deal with the drug manufacturer to provide up to 76 million doses to Canadians.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

According to a federal government news release, the early delivery of the vaccine is “contingent” on approval from Health Canada and would arrive “in a series of shipments, not all at once.”

The announcement comes as several provinces — Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Alberta, in particular — struggle with spikes in COVID-19 cases.

Trudeau said that “vaccines are coming” and that they will be distributed on a per-capita basis, meaning provinces will receive amounts based to their populations.

Trudeau noted the early doses will allow vaccinations “to begin on the most vulnerable populations and make sure we have the logistical grounding … in place to be able to deliver right across the country over the first month of 2021.”

“Pending Health Canada approval, the first shipment of doses is tracking for delivery next week,” he said. “Shipments will continue to arrive into 2021, with millions of doses on the way. This will move us forward on our whole timeline of vaccine rollout. It is a positive development on getting Canadians protected as soon as possible.”

Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization has named four priority groups for vaccinations: those in long-term care homes and related health facilities, seniors over 80, frontline health care workers and adults in Indigenous communities

Trudeau went on to say that Pfizer, federal health officials and the provinces are “working together to finalize preparations at the first 14 vaccination sites this week.”

This early batch of vaccines will have to be stored in temperatures of -80 C, something Trudeau called an “incredibly complex” logistical endeavour.  

“We’re facing the largest immunization in the history of our country,” said Trudeau. “This is no small task, which is why we have a clear plan. Our government … has been working with the provinces and territories to ensure that we’re ready to roll out vaccine doses as soon as they are approved and delivered.”

Of the 14 distribution sites, Trudeau said each of Canada’s four largest provinces will get two, and the remaining provinces will each get one.

“This is to be able to initially get doses out to the most vulnerable people, but also to demonstrate and to operationalize what is going to be an incredibly complex mobilization of vaccines across the country,” he said.

The Pfizer vaccine will reportedly not be sent to the territories, due to a current inability to store it.

Ottawa has bought 126 freezers for vaccines, including 26 for ultra-low temperature storage.

Trudeau was asked about a recent demand from Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister that his province get extra doses due to its large population of Indigenous people.

Pallister reportedly said Ottawa’s plan to reserve a portion of vaccine for First Nations people would leave the fewest doses for the rest of Manitoba’s population.  

“Our work is to make sure that all Canadians get vaccines as quickly as possible, and with the contracts we’ve signed [and] with the news we’re announcing today, we’re well on our way to doing that,” said Trudeau. “In terms of distribution, I think all of us understand that getting vaccines first to the most vulnerable people is exactly what we need to do, and that’s what we’re focused on.”

Trudeau was also asked if Ottawa had arranged to get the 249,000 early doses — a relatively small number — in order to avoid the political optics of other countries getting vaccinated before Canada.

“We’ve been working on signing contracts that are flexible enough to get us the earliest possible doses of vaccines since this past summer,” he said. “This was always an intention we had: to try and get vaccines to Canadians as quickly as possible, along with our imperative of securing the largest number of does … from the largest range of potential vaccine producers.”

Canada also has vaccine contracts with Medicago, AstraZeneca, Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline, Moderna, Novavax and Johnson & Johnson.

It was also announced that current Canada Infrastructure Bank chair Michael Sabia will be the new deputy finance minister following the departure of Paul Rochon, who, after serving in that role for the past six years, will become senior official at the Privy Council Office.

Both appointments take effect Dec. 14.

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