The military commander overseeing the complex logistics of Canada’s COVID-19 vaccination program is almost ready to say there are enough doses coming into the country to get a first shot to all adults before Canada Day.
But Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin is still reluctant to make that declaration official, as the threat of vaccine production issues still looms large over Canada’s vaccine hopes.
Officially, Canada still says Canadians will be fully vaccinated by the end of September.
Health Canada has approved four vaccines but deliveries of two are still in limbo and Fortin said he hopes to know within “a few weeks” when the first doses of Johnson & Johnson, and the 20 million doses directly from AstraZeneca, will start to arrive.
Canada pre-purchased millions of doses of seven different vaccine types, and Health Canada has approved four so far for the various provincial and territorial rollouts. All the drugs are fully effective in preventing serious illness and death, though some may do more than others to stop any symptomatic illness at all (which is where the efficacy rates cited below come in).
- Also known as: Comirnaty
- Approved on: Dec. 9, 2020
- Efficacy rate: 95 per cent with both doses in patients 16 and older, and 100 per cent in 12- to 15-year-olds
- Traits: Must be stored at -70 C, requiring specialized ultracold freezers. It is a new type of mRNA-based vaccine that gives the body a sample of the virus’s DNA to teach immune systems how to fight it. Health Canada has authorized it for use in people as young as 12.
- Also known as: SpikeVax
- Approved on: Dec. 23, 2020
- Efficacy rate: 94 per cent with both doses in patients 18 and older, and 100 per cent in 12- to 17-year-olds
- Traits: Like Pfizer’s vaccine, this one is mRNA-based, but it can be stored at -20 C. It’s approved for use in Canada for ages 12 and up.
- Also known as: Vaxzevria
- Approved on: Feb. 26, 2021
- Efficacy rate: 62 per cent two weeks after the second dose
- Traits: This comes in two versions approved for Canadian use, the kind made in Europe and the same drug made by a different process in India (where it is called Covishield). The National Advisory Committee on Immunization’s latest guidance is that its okay for people 30 and older to get it if they can’t or don’t want to wait for an mRNA vaccine, but to guard against the risk of a rare blood-clotting disorder, all provinces have stopped giving first doses of AstraZeneca.
- Also known as: Janssen
- Approved on: March 5, 2021
- Efficacy rate: 66 per cent two weeks after the single dose
- Traits: Unlike the other vaccines, this one comes in a single injection. NACI says it should be offered to Canadians 30 and older, but Health Canada paused distribution of the drug for now as it investigates inspection concerns at a Maryland facility where the active ingredient was made.
How many vaccine doses do I get?
All vaccines except Johnson & Johnson’s require two doses, though even for double-dose drugs, research suggests the first shots may give fairly strong protection. This has led health agencies to focus on getting first shots to as many people as possible, then delaying boosters by up to four months. To see how many doses your province or territory has administered so far, check our vaccine tracker for the latest numbers.
There are however more than enough doses from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine doses coming from the Serum Institute of India, to pass the one dose per person target by the end of June.
Procurement numbers show there are 36.5 million doses confirmed to be shipped by June 30, not including any of the 20 million from AstraZeneca or 10 million from J&J.
Only people over the age of 16 can currently be vaccinated and with a population of about 31 million in that age group in Canada, the math lines up.
“If there is no disruption of vaccine delivery and there is no indication that there will be, by the end of the next quarter we will have received significant numbers of vaccines, which will allow the provinces to have in their possession, enough vaccines to administer, to vaccinate all Canadians who wish a vaccine,” he said Thursday in French at a news conference in Ottawa.
Fortin later clarified in English that is dependent on provinces continuing to delay second doses up to four months to get first doses to more people sooner. And he said it is also contingent on the supplies coming in as planned.
“I would want to stay prudent with that time frame,” he said. “I would remind you while there is no indications of disruptions or fluctuations in the production, it is a pandemic with global demand on vaccines that are produced as rapidly as possible. We are always subject to fluctuations in the production and the challenges of a complicated supply chain across the world and into this country.”
Canada’s expected deliveries in February were cut by more than two thirds when Pfizer slowed down its production in Belgium to expand its plant, and Moderna took longer than expected to ramp up production overall.
But the two companies have since caught up. Pfizer is delivering 5.5 million doses by the end of this month, 1.5 million more than required by contract. Moderna will ship 846,000 more doses next week, bringing their first quarter total to two million doses, which hits their first-quarter target.
Deputy chief public health officer Dr. Howard Njoo says almost seven per cent of Canadians have now received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 1.6 per cent have received two doses.
He says 42 per cent of Canadians over the age of 80 and 12 per cent of Canadians between 70 and 79 are now vaccinated.
“This is encouraging news,” Njoo said Thursday.
In all, Canada has received 4.7 million doses, and about 73 per cent have been administered.
Canada’s entire delivery of 444,600 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech for this week has been delivered. Next week Pfizer is shipping 1.2 million doses. Moderna’s deliveries of 846,000 doses will come in two separate shipments, one early in the week and one late in the week, said Fortin.
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