Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says difficulties surrounding the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine shouldn’t impact the country’s ability to vaccinate all adults by the end of September.
Canada’s vaccine procurement plan is focused on Pfizer and Moderna’s product, Trudeau said during a news conference Tuesday. That means the recently recommended pause in administering the AstraZeneca vaccine will cause minimal disruption to the overall immunization plan.
“Our portfolio of vaccines is extremely heavily weighted toward Pfizer and Moderna,” Trudeau said. “Our target of six million doses for Canadians by end of march was based on Pfizer and Moderna alone.”
The country is “of course” interested in more doses of varied vaccines, Trudeau added.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommended Monday that provinces pause the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine on people under age 55 while reports of serious blood clots following immunization are investigated.
Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam acknowledged this setback is “another difficult development in the seemingly never-ending twists and turns in this pandemic.”
However, she was heartened that global surveillance systems caught the rare but dangerous blood clots so quickly.
Canada ahead of predicted vaccine timeline
Canada has already met its goal of distributing six million vaccine doses to the provinces by the end of March, and Trudeau said an increase in weekly vaccine shipments is coming.
Next week 2.3 million total vaccine doses are set to arrive, and the country is on track to receive one million Pfizer doses every week by May.
Canada also convinced Pfizer to move up a scheduled shipment of five million Pfizer doses from the summer to June. The country will now receive 9.6 million Pfizer doses that month alone.
By the end of June, Canada is on track to receive 18 million total Pfizer doses and 44 million total doses of all vaccines.
“We continue to bring vaccines into this country while managing inherent volatility in global vaccine supply chains,” Minister of Public Services and Procurement Anita Anand said.
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COVID-19 infection data remains troubling
Although the country is making progress on immunization, a third wave of infection is currently gripping many regions.
Nationally, Canada reported an average of 4,600 new cases and 26 deaths daily over the past week.
Hospitals are also feeling renewed strain due to a rise in severe and critical illness caused by COVID-19. An average of 2,200 people stayed in hospital with their infections this week, a 6% increase from last week. Approximately 660 people across the country are in the ICU due to their infection, 14% more than last week.
Variants of concern appear to be driving epidemic growth in many areas, Tam said. In the past week there was a 64% increase in new variant of concern cases. There have been more than 9,000 variant cases reported in Canada to date, with the B117 strain initially identified in the UK accounting for more than 90% of variant cases.