Canada is set to receive 910,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses this week as pharmaceutical companies ramp up deliveries to make good on their contractual obligations by the end of the month.
The Public Health Agency of Canada says the country will receive nearly 445,000 shots from Pfizer-BioNTech for the second week running as the companies settle into a rhythm following a lengthy lull in January and much of February.
The remaining 465,000 shots are expected from Moderna, as the pharmaceutical firm steps up its delivery schedule from once every three weeks to once every two.
The influx of new shots comes as the federal government looks for vaccine-makers to finalize delivery of a total of eight million doses by March 31.
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.
That includes 5.5 million from Pfizer-BioNTech – up from the four million originally expected – and two million from Moderna. Canada received 500,000 doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine last week.
The federal government is not expecting any new deliveries from AstraZeneca-Oxford, nor does it anticipate receiving shipments of the newly approved vaccine from Johnson & Johnson until next month.
At that point, however, both manufacturers are on tap to deliver millions of shots per month.
That includes more than a million doses per week from Pfizer-BioNTech starting in the last week of March and into the following month.
“In April, we are anticipating a steep increase in vaccine availability,” Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the military officer overseeing Canada’s inoculation distribution effort, said last week.
“This includes 23 million doses of both Pfizer and Moderna between April and June, and at least 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca Serum Institute of India vaccine arriving by mid-May.”
Johnson & Johnson, whose single-dose vaccine received Health Canada approval on Friday, is the fourth inoculation to receive the green light from the regulator.
It uses a modified common-cold virus to carry a piece of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 to convince the body to mount an immune response to prevent future infections.
Clinical trials found it to be 66 per cent effective against moderate COVID-19-related illness, 85 per cent effective against severe illness, and 100 per cent effective against death.
“We can be really increasingly optimistic in our outlook and that is really great,” Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said on Friday.
Procurement Minister Anita Anand said the government has now confirmed total deliveries of 36.5 million vaccine doses by Canada Day which would be more than enough to get a single dose to each adult Canadian by then.
That doesn’t include any of the 10 million doses purchased from Johnson & Johnson, and includes none of the 20 million doses coming directly from AstraZeneca.
Every vaccine except Johnson & Johnson’s is given in two doses, but provinces are moving to implement new guidance from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization stating those shots should be spaced out up to four months apart rather than three or four weeks.
Provinces are making the move to get more people vaccinated with a first dose, after real-world evidence showed strong data that one dose is highly effective on its own.
Nearly 1.7 million Canadians have now received at least one dose, and the pace of vaccinations has accelerated in the last two weeks. In the past seven days alone, more than 457,000 people were vaccinated, 2 1/2 times as many as in a similar period two weeks before.
The Globe and Mail
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