Moderna to deliver 1 million more doses in May as Canada braces for a ‘massive’ surge in vaccines

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the military commander leading vaccine logistics at the Public Health Agency of Canada, said today that Moderna will deliver one million more vaccine doses during the week of May 10.

Deliveries from the Massachusetts-based biotechnology company have been uneven for weeks as it’s grappled with supply chain issues, including delays associated with the “quality assurance” process at plants in Europe.

Fortin said the federal government is working with the company to “better regulate its delivery process” to provide the provinces and territories with greater certainty moving forward.

Moderna delivered 650,000 doses yesterday — half the 1.3 million shots initially expected, a cut some provinces have blamed for cancelled appointments.

But Fortin signalled the period of uneven deliveries is coming to an end as Pfizer and Moderna, Canada’s two largest suppliers, find their footing.

People wait in line at a COVID-19 vaccination clinic to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine at Olympic Stadium in Montreal, on Thursday, April 8, 2021. The province is expanding eligibility to all adults over the next two weeks.(Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

Fortin said the federal government now expects Moderna will come “as close as possible” to the 12.3 million doses it initially promised to deliver for the April-through-June period, despite past cuts.

Vaccine supplies will ramp up dramatically in the coming months as Pfizer delivers two million shots a week starting in May, and 2.5 million shots per week in the month of June — vaccine stocks that are badly needed as the country struggles to push back a punishing third pandemic wave.

Canada is now expecting 24.2 million doses of the Pfizer product in the second quarter of this year alone.

The number of shots to be delivered over the next five weeks will equal the total number of shots that have arrived over the past five months. That spike in supply is permitting provinces to open up vaccine eligibility.

Ontario and Quebec announced Thursday that all people over the age of 18 will be able to book appointments by May 24 — much earlier than originally planned, thanks in large part to Pfizer boosting its deliveries.

The federal government is expecting 48 to 50 million shots will be delivered by Canada Day, more than enough to vaccinate every adult with at least one shot and enough to administer millions of second doses.

“What’s changed is the massive increase in vaccine over the next few weeks,” Fortin said. “Provinces had been planning on a significant increase from June onwards. Now that’s been accelerated.”

Fortin confirmed that 300,000 doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson product arrived Wednesday.

Because the product arrives frozen and takes a couple days to thaw, the federal government will begin distributing those shots to the provinces early next week, Fortin said. They’re to be distributed on a per-capita basis to the provinces.

Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, said that while the immunization campaign got off to a slow start in the first three months of 2021, “now we have millions and millions of doses, a new vaccine is coming. This is nothing but good news.

“The provinces and territories are equally as joyful to hear this good news. I can now encourage my own children to get vaccinated.”

Njoo said 36 per cent of all adults in Canada have received at least one dose, with much higher numbers among the elderly and people living in the territories.

‘Too early to celebrate’

He said the dramatic decline in COVID-related hospitalizations and deaths among people aged 80 and over is a testament to how effective the vaccines are in the fight against the novel coronavirus. Federal data suggest the number of COVID-19 cases among people over 80 has dropped from 35 cases per 100,000 in January to less than five now.

While vaccination rates will increase in the coming weeks, Njoo urged people to continue to follow public health guidelines and restrict in-person contacts until more people are fully vaccinated.

Fortin said he’s “very proud of this adventure we’re on,” adding thousands of people behind the scenes have worked hard to secure a supply of vaccines for Canadians.

“It’s a bit too early to celebrate. There’s still a lot of work to do,” he said.

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