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Pfizer will 'temporarily' reduce deliveries of the COVID-19 vaccine to Canada by an average of 50%

Elisabetta Bianchini
·3-min read

For more on today’s top stories and the spread of the novel coronavirus across the country, please refer to our live updates below throughout the day, as well as our COVID-19 news hub.

Anita Anand, Minister of Public Services and Procurement, announced that Pfizer will be temporarily reducing deliveries of its COVID-19 vaccine to Canada.

“Due to work to expand its European manufacturing capacity, production of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine will be impacted for a short period,” Anand said. “This expansion work means that Pfizer is temporarily reducing deliveries to all countries receiving vaccine manufactured at its European facility and that includes Canada.”

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada and head of the country’s vaccine distribution efforts, confirmed that Canada’s vaccine shipment from Pfizer will be reduced by an average of 50 per cent for the next four week.

“The impact for next week, minimal. We will feel it more in the following week...we’ll have about a quarter of what we expected that week,” Maj.-Gen. Fortin said. “The numbers will pick right back up after that, to about half of what we had expected.”

He said the vaccine allocation for Canada will begin to “scale up” in the first two weeks of February and is expected to return to previously determined levels for the end of February and onwards.

“This is a temporary delay and we remain on track to have enough approved vaccines for everyone who wishes to be vaccinated by the end of September 2021,” Anand said.

The procurement minister said Pfizer believes that the company can “catch up” and by the end of March and deliver the total committed doses for the first quarter of the year.

“This is unfortunate however such delays and issues are to be expected when global supply chains are stretched well beyond their limits,” Anand said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it is important that Canadians are informed of challenges with vaccine procurement as they come up.

“This is a challenge but we knew these types of challenges would happen with a global effort like this,” Trudeau said.

In terms of how much notice the Canadians government received about Pfizer’s expansion to its manufacturing capacity, Maj.-Gen. Fortin confirmed the impact on Canada’s shipments of COVID-19 vaccines was only revealed Friday morning.

“We knew that they wanted and they needed to upgrade, scale up their production line in Europe, what that meant and when that was going to impact, if it was going to impact the production and the shipments to Canada, that was unknown,” Maj.-Gen. Fortin said.

“They contemplated a number of different options,...Pfizer made the decision to take the option that they took and we learned of the news early this morning, and we shared that through the various tables to all our partners today.”

In terms of how this will impact vaccine administration in each province, Minister of Health Patty Hajdu maintained that vaccine doses should continue to be administered as close to the manufacturers requirements as possible, which is 21 days apart between the two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

On Thursday, it was announced that the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) has determined that the time between the two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines could be extended, up to 42 days.

Check out our COVID-19 in Canada topic page for latest news, tips, health updates, cases and more.