After Health Canada announced today that it has approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for use, BC health officials laid out their plan for how the vaccine will be rolled out to British Columbians over the coming weeks and months.
“The plan is to start where the need is most, and the most people are,” said Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry during a Wednesday press conference.
The first vaccine to arrive in the province next week will be from Pfizer. It will be delivered initially to two Lower Mainland sites (one in Vancouver Coastal, and one in Fraser Health) before delivery is expanded to nine sites by January.
The delivery will come in the form of two “trays,” containing a total of 975 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, which equates to just under 4,000 vaccinations, said Henry.
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Following the initial rollout, health officials expect to receive “tens of thousands” of doses in the subsequent weeks and into early January. Vaccines will continue arriving each week in BC in increasing quantities, with targeted deployment for people in priority groups. Timelines will depend on vaccine approval and availability.
“We have plans to make sure that by the middle of January, we have [vaccination] sites identified in all regions of the province,” said Henry.
By March 2021, nearly 400,000 people should be immunized in the province.
The immunization plan is being led by Dr. Ross Brown, Vancouver Coastal Health’s vice president for pandemic response and director of regional emergency operations centre, as well as Henry and the Ministry of Health.
At the end of the day, the COVID-19 vaccination program will be “the most complex and comprehensive program ever delivered,” said Henry.
According to Pfizer, the distribution of the vaccine in Canada will be prioritized “according to the populations identified in guidance from the National Advisory Committee on Immunizations (NACI).”
BioNTech will hold the regulatory approval in Canada, while Pfizer Canada will have the commercialization rights.
“Today’s decision from Health Canada is a historic moment in our collective fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and is a major step towards returning to normalcy in Canada. I’d like to acknowledge the tremendous efforts of Pfizer and BioNTech colleagues around the world who have contributed to the development of this vaccine,” said Cole Pinnow, President, Pfizer Canada, in a statement.
“We commend Health Canada for its careful and thorough assessment of our COVID-19 vaccine and timely action to help protect Canadians.”
Pfizer notes that Health Canada’s decision is based on data from the Phase 2/3 clinical trial, which began recruiting in late-July 2020 and enrolled approximately 44,000 people across approximately 150 sites in multiple countries.
Pfizer Canada and BioNTech will supply the Government of Canada a minimum of 20 million doses—and up to 76 million doses—of the vaccine through 2021.