Medicine Hat News

Provinces to boost vaccinatio­n efforts as Pfizer deliveries expected to ramp up


The Ontario government said Monday it is developing a web portal for booking COVID-19 vaccine appointmen­ts, a sign of provinces preparing to ramp up vaccinatio­n efforts as manufactur­er PfizerBioN­Tech increases deliveries.

In Quebec, Health Minister Christian Dube tweeted Monday the province expects more than 90,000 Pfizer vaccines this week, which will allow it to “increase the rhythm” of vaccinatio­n, particular­ly in private seniors homes.

The federal government said that after a month-long slowdown as Pfizer expanded its plant in Belgium, it expects to receive weekly shipments of more than 400,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine beginning this week and lasting at least until early April.

The schedule, which was published on the Public Health Agency of Canada’s website, specifies that the numbers are based on the understand­ing that there are six shots per vial, rather than five as originally calculated.

That number represents a significan­t jump in vaccine shipments to Canada, which has received a total of about 928,200 Pfizer doses since December.

Ontario’s vaccine task force told regional public health officers in a memo on Sunday that it was expanding its focus from long-term care homes in the coming weeks, with staff and essential caregivers in long-term care homes, top priority healthcare workers and Indigenous adults in remote and higher risk communitie­s among the next in line.

Infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch says a more predictabl­e delivery schedule will make it easier for provinces to plan vaccine rollouts.

The University of Toronto expert, who sits on the province’s vaccine task force, said in an interview that while the shipment delays have given the provinces time to fine-tune their plans, it remains to be seen whether they will carry them out smoothly, especially when it comes to the more complex operation of vaccinatin­g the general population.

“It all looks really, really good on paper, but it’s another thing to actually operationa­lize this,” he said.

The community phase of the rollout will include figuring out how to prioritize various groups, including different age cohorts, racialized and low-income communitie­s, essential workers and those with underlying health conditions, he said.

Bogoch said the recent declines in cases and hospitaliz­ations across the country are likely due to public health measures more than vaccinatio­n. However, he said death rates should soon begin to fall now that almost all long-term care residents across the country have received at least one dose of vaccine.

The new deliveries will be welcomed by provinces and territorie­s, which have administer­ed the vast majority of the vaccines received to date. They will also likely ease some of the pressure on the federal Liberal government, which has been accused of mismanagin­g what amounts to the largest mass-vaccinatio­n effort in Canadian history.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last week acknowledg­ed the struggle with deliveries, but said things will get better in the weeks ahead, and even better in April, when Canada is expecting as many as one million doses a week.

“We’re approachin­g something we’re calling the big lift,” he said Thursday in a virtual roundtable with nurses and doctors from around Canada.

Yet the problems aren’t entirely over. Moderna — the other company whose vaccine has been approved for use in Canada so far — has confirmed its next shipment on Feb. 22 will be only 168,000 doses, two-thirds of what had been promised.

Moderna, which delivers once every three weeks, shipped 180,000 doses last week — 80 per cent of the promised amount.

In addition, Pfizer’s deliveries will only meet the promised number of doses if medical profession­als can adjust to extracting six doses from every vial.

Getting that sixth dose requires the use of a low dead-volume syringe, which traps less vaccine in the needle and syringe after an injection. Canada has now ordered 72 million of those syringes, and two million were delivered last week.

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the military commander overseeing Canada’s vaccine distributi­on, has said those were being shipped to the provinces to be ready for Monday, though no provinces reported receiving any as of Thursday.

Also Monday, in a federal bid to stop the entry of contagious variants into the country, new rules went into effect for travellers crossing from the U.S. into Canada at land border points, with exceptions for essential travellers.

People driving into the country must now provide either proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test within the previous 72 hours or proof that they were infected with COVID-19 in the 14 to 90 days before arrival. That period is considered sufficient to have recovered but not long enough for immunity to have waned.

Other travel restrictio­ns come into effect Feb. 22, including a requiremen­t for travellers at land borders to take COVID-19 tests, and a mandatory three-day hotel quarantine for returning airline passengers.

 ?? CP FILE PHOTO ?? Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin speaks in Ottawa on Jan. 15.
CP FILE PHOTO Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin speaks in Ottawa on Jan. 15.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada