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A pharmacy technician draws the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine from a vial at a University Health Network pilot site in downtown Toronto on Dec. 15, 2020.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Canada could have a significant increase in doses of its Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine just as the next shipment from Moderna is thrown into doubt.

A document prepared by the Public Health Agency of Canada last week and obtained by The Globe and Mail on Wednesday shows the government expects another disruption in shipments from Moderna on top of a 22-per-cent cut to this week’s delivery.

Expected Moderna COVID-19 vaccine shipments

On Jan. 29, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the delivery for Feb. 1 would be cut by 22 per cent. Internal documents show the Public Health Agency of Canada is also expecting a disruption to the shipment for Feb. 22.

Allocated vaccine doses

 

Initial projection

Revised projection

300,000

200,000

Allocation

not yet

confirmed

100,000

0

Jan 11

Feb 1

Feb 22

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: FEDERAL GOVERNMENT

Expected Moderna COVID-19 vaccine shipments

On Jan. 29, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the delivery for Feb. 1 would be cut by 22 per cent. Internal documents show the Public Health Agency of Canada is also expecting a disruption to the shipment for Feb. 22.

Allocated vaccine doses

 

Initial projection

Revised projection

300,000

200,000

Allocation

not yet

confirmed

100,000

0

Jan 11

Feb 1

Feb 22

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: FEDERAL GOVERNMENT

Expected Moderna COVID-19 vaccine shipments

On Jan. 29, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the delivery for Feb. 1 would be cut by 22 per cent. Internal documents show the Public Health Agency of Canada is also expecting a disruption to the shipment for Feb. 22.

Allocated vaccine doses

Initial projection

Revised projection

 

300,000

200,000

100,000

Allocation

not yet

confirmed

0

Jan 11

Feb 1

Feb 22

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: FEDERAL GOVERNMENT

“The week of 22 Feb will also be impacted, but Moderna cannot confirm allocations for that week yet,” reads the document approved by Major-General Dany Fortin, leader of Canada’s vaccine logistics. The document says the information is based on an e-mail from Moderna last Thursday.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the first cut in deliveries on Friday. At the time he said it “should be returned to normal on the next shipment.” That delivery is scheduled for the week of Feb. 22.

The documents “were shared with the provinces and territories in confidence and were not meant to be shared publicly,” said Eric Morrissette, a spokesperson for the public-health agency.

The company has said the temporary drop in shipments is because of slowdowns in production as it scales up operations.

Moderna would not say on Tuesday whether the Feb. 22 shipment was also being cut. Patricia Gauthier, Moderna’s country manager for Canada, said in a statement that it has “provided short-term revised delivery guidance outside of the U.S.,” including to Canada.

She said the company will meet its commitment to ship two million vaccine doses to Canada by the end of March.

Compared with other countries, Canada’s ranking for vaccinations per capita has slipped significantly, according to the Our World in Data website. On Jan. 8, the Oxford University-based group ranked Canada 10th. As of Wednesday, it was 33rd.

The minority Liberal government could get some breathing room if Health Canada approves Pfizer’s request to formally recognize that each vial contains six doses rather than five. The company asked Health Canada to make the change on Jan. 22, and a decision is expected soon.

Regulators in the European Union and United States have already accepted the change. A specialized implement, called a low dead space syringe, is needed to reliably extract six doses from each vial. The syringe limits the space between the needle and the plunger when it’s fully pushed in, allowing for less waste.

In a statement to The Globe, a spokesperson for Pfizer confirmed the company will send the same number of vials to Canada in February whether Health Canada approves the change to six doses or does not. Either way, the company said it will send four million doses to Canada by the end of March.

Expected Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19

vaccine shipments

Canada’s short-term shipments have been significantly cut from initial projections. Some of that loss in doses will be offset if Health Canada approves a change to the vaccine label that would formally recognize that six doses can be drawn from each vial.

Cumulative vaccine doses - Jan 4 through Feb 28

Initial projection

2,219,100

2,500,000

2,000,000

With six

doses per vial

1,565,460

1,500,000

1,000,000

500,000

Revised projection

with five doses per vial

1,404,975

0

Jan 4

Jan 18

Feb 1

Feb 15

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: FEDERAL GOVERNMENT

Expected Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19

vaccine shipments

Canada’s short-term shipments have been significantly cut from initial projections. Some of that loss in doses will be offset if Health Canada approves a change to the vaccine label that would formally recognize that six doses can be drawn from each vial.

Cumulative vaccine doses - Jan 4 through Feb 28

2,500,000

Initial projection

2,219,100

2,000,000

With six

doses per vial

1,565,460

1,500,000

1,000,000

500,000

Revised projection

with five doses per vial

1,404,975

0

Jan 4

Jan 18

Feb 1

Feb 15

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: FEDERAL GOVERNMENT

Expected Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine shipments

Canada’s short-term shipments have been significantly cut from initial projections. Some of that loss in doses will be offset if Health Canada approves a change to the vaccine label that would formally recognize that six doses can be drawn from each vial.

Cumulative vaccine doses - Jan 4 through Feb 28

2,500,000

Initial projection

2,219,100

2,000,000

With six

doses per vial

1,565,460

1,500,000

Revised projection

with five doses

per vial

1,404,975

1,000,000

500,000

0

Jan 4

Jan 18

Feb 1

Feb 15

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: FEDERAL GOVERNMENT

If the change is made this week, Canada would be able to count about 20 per cent more doses in the deliveries planned for each of the next three weeks. In the week of Feb. 22, that would mean Canada will receive 475,020 doses, rather than 395,850.

Some provinces oppose the change. They say that even with the specialized syringe, they can’t reliably extract a sixth dose, and want it to be treated as a bonus when they can.

Mr. Morrissette said the “feasibility of implementing this change” will be considered in Health Canada’s decision. Canada has purchased 64 million low dead space syringes, which are in a global supply crunch. Deliveries start this week and continue into May.

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