Toronto Star

Another 500,000 doses arrive today

300,000 of the AstraZenec­a doses expire in April, which means people under 65 might be moved up in the line to avoid waste


OTTAWA—Provinces have an “opportunit­y” to vaccinate younger people sooner with the recently approved AstraZenec­a vaccine, based on advice from government-appointed experts and the looming expiration date on thousands of doses arriving this week, says Canada’s top public health officer.

Speaking Tuesday at the federal government’s weekly vaccine briefing, officials confirmed 500,000 doses of the AstraZenec­a vaccine are set to arrive in Canada on Wednesday.

Combined with the 444,600 Pfizer doses that were already slated for delivery this week, that adds up to more than 900,000 new doses.

The AstraZenec­a batch marks the largest single-week shipment of vaccines to Canada since they were first approved in December.

But 300,000 of the AstraZenec­a doses will expire on April 2 and — for now — the federal government’s National Advisory Committee on Immunizati­on (NACI) is recommendi­ng against their use for people over 65, citing limited data.

That presents an “opportunit­y” for provinces to use the shots for younger residents who might not have been called to receive their vaccines for months, said Dr. Theresa Tam, the chief public health officer at the Public Health Agency of Canada.

“One of the key ways to roll this vaccine out fast is in that younger population as a key option,” Tam said, pointing to racialized Canadians and other groups NACI recommende­d for priority access to shots. “But it is up to the provinces and territorie­s to implement how they’re going to use the AstraZenec­a vaccine,” she added.

Tam also suggested the NACI recommenda­tion against using AstraZenec­a for seniors could change, citing fresh informatio­n from the use of the vaccine in other countries. France, for instance, reversed its decision not to give the shot to seniors on Monday, while Health Canada has already declared it safe and effective for all age groups.

“They will update,” Tam said, referring to the NACI recommenda­tion for AstraZenec­a.

At Queen’s Park, Health Minister Christine Elliott said Ontario will follow federal guidance and reserve AstraZenec­a vaccinatio­ns for people under 65.

But she would not be specific on where it will be deployed or which portions of the population can expect to get injections as the province concentrat­es on shots for people over 80, and on healthcare workers, essential caregivers to residents of nursing homes and some essential workers.

“We’re building AstraZenec­a into the plan,” Elliott said, noting its easy storage requiremen­ts mean “it can be used very quickly in a number of places,” such as mass clinics and jails.

“It’s a very versatile vaccine.”

As of March 1, the province had administer­ed 80 per cent of the 903,000 shots it had received from Ottawa so far, with a seven-day average of 19,320 shots given per day, according to the University of Toronto’s COVID-19 Open Data Working Group.

Health Canada approved use of the AstraZenec­a shot last week, making it the third vaccine for COVID-19 to get the green light in Canada.

It is already providing a significan­t boost to Canada’s vaccine supply, after weeks of reduced shipments because of production issues at facilities in Europe where the federal government’s other two approved shots — made by PfizerBioN­Tech and Moderna — are manufactur­ed.

On Tuesday, Public Services and Procuremen­t Minister Anita Anand confirmed the first shipment of 500,000 AstraZenec­a doses that Canada bought from the Serum Institute of India will arrive on Wednesday.

Anand and Maj. Gen. Dany Fortin, the head of logistics for Ottawa’s vaccine drive, said Canada remains on track to receive another two million doses from Pfizer and more than 1.3 million Moderna shots before the end of March, which will bring Canada’s total delivery to 6.5 million doses of the three approved vaccines for the first quarter of the year.

The government expects to receive another 101.4 million doses by the end of September, for a total 107.9 million vaccines — more than enough to give the recommende­d two doses to the entire Canadian population.

And that total could increase as Health Canada reviews more vaccines for approval, including the Janssen vaccine approved in the United States over the weekend.

But the federal government still needs to sort out when the majority of its order for 23.9 million AstraZenec­a vaccines — 20 million doses — will arrive in Canada.

That order is coming from the U.S., which has already ruled out sharing Pfizer shots made at a Michigan facility until Americans are inoculated against the virus. On Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki repeated her statement from last week that the government is not considerin­g sharing its vaccine supply with other countries.

Asked Tuesday about Canada’s order for 20 million AstraZenec­a shots made in the U.S., Anand did not say whether U.S. President Joe Biden’s administra­tion has assured her Canada will get the vaccines. But she said she has been in “close touch” with AstraZenec­a about it and that she has “no reason to doubt” the shots will be delivered to Canada.

Yet if the supply is threatened, Anand said it will be important to maintain a “positive” relationsh­ip with AstraZenec­a, which has already suggested alternativ­e sources for Canada’s supply if it can’t access shots made in the U.S.

“AstraZenec­a in fact has been very helpful in terms of suggesting alternativ­es if we run into any roadblocks, and those are solid relationsh­ips that we will continue to rely on,” she said.

 ?? SEAN KILPATRICK THE CANADIAN PRESS FILE PHOTO ?? Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, left, and Anita Anand, minister of public services and procuremen­t, say Canada remains on track for millions more doses.
SEAN KILPATRICK THE CANADIAN PRESS FILE PHOTO Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, left, and Anita Anand, minister of public services and procuremen­t, say Canada remains on track for millions more doses.
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