OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada on Tuesday announced an agreement to receive early deliveries of the Moderna Inc COVID-19 vaccine amid a surge of new cases that are forcing new health restrictions across the country.
“Canada is now contracted to receive up to 168,000 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine before the end of December, pending Health Canada approval,” Trudeau said in a news conference.
Earlier this month, Canada brought forward some deliveries of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which received regulatory approval last week. Before these agreements, the first deliveries had been expected early next year. The first Pfizer vaccinations took place on Monday.
“We have now confirmed that next week we will receive about 200,000 of our total early order of doses from Pfizer,” he added.
Moderna’s vaccine is under review by Canada’s drug regulator, and Trudeau said its approval could come as early as next week.
British Columbia administered its first injection to a healthcare worker on Tuesday, and the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan were poised to begin vaccinations later in the day. Some 100 frontline healthcare workers were due to get shots in Ottawa, the capital, by the end of the day.
Several provinces have clamped down again on businesses and social gatherings amid the second wave, and Quebec – the hardest hit province – announced new health restrictions on Tuesday.
Quebec Premier François Legault said non-essential retail businesses would have to close from Dec. 25 to Jan. 1, and office employees must work from home starting on Thursday.
“Some hospitals are at their limit,” Legault told reporters.
Canada has so far reported 468,862 cases, with 6,731 new ones on Monday, and 13,553 deaths. Health officials warned last week that the country could see 12,000 new cases per day by January without new restrictions.
The country’s economic recovery from the pandemic is at a very difficult stage and a second wave of coronavirus infections “could even deepen the economic hole”, Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem said on Tuesday.
CANADA AMONG FIRST WITH VACCINE
Canada on Monday became just the third nation in the world to administer the vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc and Germany’s BioNTech SE. The United States also began a massive inoculation program on Monday, less than a week after the UK became the first to administer the shots outside of clinical trials.
Canada, which received an initial shipment of 30,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, expects a total of 249,000 doses by the end of the year. Combined with the expected Moderna supply, the government expects to have 417,000 total doses by January.
By the end of March, Canada expects to have received 4 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 2 million of the Moderna shots. The country’s population is about 38 million.
Only about half of Canadians said they would be willing to get vaccinated as soon as it became available, according to a poll by the Angus Reid Institute published this week.
Both vaccines require two doses given three weeks apart.
Moderna’s inoculations have been earmarked for distribution in the country’s more remote communities and in long-term care homes with less access to the specialized freezers or dry ice needed to transport and store the Pfizer/BioNTech offering.
“The Moderna vaccine does not need some of the extra special handling requirements of the one from Pfizer, including ultra-cold freezers,” Trudeau said.
(Reporting by Steve Scherer, additional reporting by Allison Lampert in Montreal and Rod Nickel in Winnipeg; Editing by Bill Berkrot and Sonya Hepinstall)