No schedule for vaccine distribution says federal health minister

Canada’s health minister says the federal government doesn’t have a schedule for delivering the COVID-19 vaccine once it’s available.

Patty Hajdu said the government is still working on a delivery agreement that will determine how vaccines are rolled out, and how many doses each province will receive.

Provincial government officials in Saskatchewan, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec have all claimed Canada will get 4-million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, along with 2-million doses from Moderna. On Friday, however, Hajdu said those numbers have yet to be confirmed.

“The delivery schedule is one thing. The successful delivery of the vaccines is another,” Hajdu told reporters. “Obviously, the premiers are working on documents that we’re sharing with provinces and territories as we work through the distribution plans. I think the assertion of the provinces around the number of doses that they are going to receive in their own jurisdictions is the area where we have not come to an agreement on yet.”

Both vaccines are in the regulatory review process. Hajdu said early reports are encouraging, but public health restrictions will still be necessary for the weeks and months ahead.

“This wave is undeniably harder,” she said. “We are all tired. We are all lonely, and we all want our lives back, but we can’t give up now. We see the light, the potential of vaccines and spring, but we also have to get there first, so let’s all pitch in.”

Pfizer Inc. and German company BioNTech formally submitted a joint emergency use authorization request for their vaccine candidate to U.S. authorities on Friday. The submission is based on a 95 per cent efficacy rate from more than 46,000 trial participants, including 100 children between the ages of 12 and 15.

Both companies say the vaccine could be available in the U.S. by the middle of December.

“Filing in the U.S. represents a critical milestone in our journey to deliver a COVID-19 vaccine to the world,” Pfizer chairman and CEO Dr. Albert Bourla said in a media release. “We now have a more complete picture of both the efficacy and safety profile of our vaccine, giving us confidence in its potential.”

The two companies estimate they could produce up to 50-million doses of COVID-19 by the end of 2020, and up to 1.3-billion by the end of 2021. The vaccine will be ready for distribution within hours of authorization.

Moderna’s vaccine candidate hit an efficiency rate of 94.5 per cent, according to a media update sent out on Nov. 16. The company used more than 30,000 participants in its trials, which were conducted in collaboration with four other organizations.

Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel thanked researchers and participants, along with their partners at the Biomedical Advanced Research Development Authority (BARDA) and Operation Warp Speed, who he said were instrumental in accelerating their progress.

“This is a pivotal moment in the development of our COVID-19 vaccine candidate,” Bancel said in a media release. “Since early January, we have chased this virus with the intent to protect as many people around the world as possible. All along, we have known that each day matters.”

The company expects to have roughly 20-million doses of the vaccine available by the end of 2020. They remain on track to manufacture between 500-million and 1-billion doses by the end of 2021.

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