Pfizer and BioNTech will deliver the first doses of their Covid-19 vaccine to Canada this month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Monday, with inoculations to start as early as next week.
Another vaccine candidate developed by Moderna could also be shipped “as soon as December,” the American company said.
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At a news conference, Trudeau said a deal was signed with Pfizer and BioNTech “to begin early delivery of doses of their vaccine candidate.”
“We are now contracted to receive up to 249,000 of our initial doses of Pfizer BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine in the month of December,” he said.
Pending regulatory approval expected this week, the prime minister said the first shipments to 14 sites across Canada could be delivered next week, with millions more doses to follow in 2021.
Health care workers and vulnerable populations including the elderly would be the first to receive it.
Major-General Dany Fortin, who is leading Canada’s Covid-19 vaccine rollout, said it will take only one or two days after the doses arrive to “unpack, thaw, decant, mix” and inject them into the arms of Canadians.
He and his team are doing a “dry run” to test the ultra-cold storage delivery chain, flying boxes this week from Belgium and handing them off to health care workers.
The federal government has concluded pre-orders with several pharmaceutical companies — including AstraZeneca, Pfizer and BioNTech, Sanofi and GSK, Novavax, Johnson & Johnson, Medicago and Moderna — for 400 million doses, to ensure it eventually gets what it needs for its population of 38 million.
The vaccine developed by US giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech is at the most advanced stage, having proved 95 percent effective in late-stage clinical trials and already secured approval in Britain where its world-first rollout is to begin Tuesday.
In August, Ottawa signed a deal with Pfizer for 20 million doses plus options for more.
It poses some logistical challenges, however, including that it must be stored at extreme sub-zero temperatures.
Moderna, meanwhile, said in a statement that Canada has doubled its vaccine order to 40 million doses and “could ship its Covid-19 vaccine as soon as December if regulatory approval is granted this month.”
Vaccine makers have been providing Health Canada with data from clinical trials as it becomes available in order to fast-track approvals.
Canada has reported 419,000 virus cases as of Monday, including nearly 13,000 deaths.