Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada will receive its first COVID-19 vaccine in December, which is expected to begin shipment next week.
During a press conference on Monday, Trudeau said Pfizer will begin early delivery of their vaccine candidate, providing up to 249,000 of their initial doses in December.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is still pending Health Canada approval.
The first shipment is being tracked for delivery next week, Trudeau said. These doses are part of the up to 76 million doses Canada has secured through its existing agreement with Pfizer.
He added that more vaccines will continue to arrive in 2021. “This will move us forward on our whole timeline and is a positive development to get people protected.”
The prime minister noted that 14 distribution sites will be ready this week for the Pfizer vaccine in urban centres with one in each province and two in the four largest provinces.
The vaccine needs to be stored at -70°C, making the distribution of it “a logistical challenge,” Trudeau acknowledged.
There will be one or two days from de-freezing the product to when it can be used for vaccination.
Trudeau also wanted to ensure Canadians that the “regulatory process is still ongoing” and will only deliver a safe vaccine that upholds the “gold standard” of medical approval.
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“Our top priority has been protecting people around the country…vaccines are coming. Our goal is to have a safe and effective vaccine that we can deliver as soon as possible,” Trudeau said.
Logistical tests are planned, beginning with a dry run with Pfizer this week, led by the National Operations Centre. This dry run will be used to confirm the ordering, shipping and importation processes from the point of manufacture to the point of use across Canada. In this initial dry run with Pfizer, a shipping container with dry ice and a data-logger will simulate a shipment of the vaccine.
Trudeau emphasized that vulnerable populations will be prioritized, which include long-term care homes, healthcare workers, and Indigenous communities in remote communities.
Distribution will be done on a per capita basis.
Last week, federal health officials said that Canada had “exercised” its option to purchase 20 million additional doses of Moderna’s vaccine candidate. This brings the total number of Moderna vaccines destined for Canada to 40 million.
Canadian health officials also noted that they will procure up to 194 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, with the option to purchase an additional 220 million. The first three million will be available some time in the first quarter of 2021.