OTTAWA/TORONTO (Reuters) – Pfizer Inc told Canada on Tuesday it will receive no coronavirus vaccines next week, officials said, an unexpected development that promises more pain for provinces already complaining about a shortage of supplies.
Pfizer said last week it would slow production in late January and early February because of changes in manufacturing processes, resulting in a supply cut for Canada and European Union nations.
Canada had already predicted last week that Pfizer shipments would be cut in half over the next month. But Major-General Deny Fortin, who is helping organize the inoculation campaign, said Pfizer had now announced all Canadian deliveries promised for the week starting Jan. 25 would be pushed back into February.
“The effect next week will be severe, more severe than we had initially expected,” he told reporters, predicting “a considerable impact” in all 10 provinces.
Pfizer still planned to meet commitments to supply up to 4 million doses of the vaccine by the end of March, he said.
Canada, struggling to deal with a rapidly spreading second wave of the coronavirus, has reported a total of 18,120 deaths and 715,072 cases so far.
European governments last week said the Pfizer supply problems were unacceptable and meant the credibility of their vaccination programs was at risk.
Canadian Procurement Minister Anita Anand said the delay was “very disappointing”, adding she had insisted to Pfizer over the weekend that Canada be treated fairly and not be forced to wait longer than other nations for vaccines.
“Pfizer assured me and Canada of equitable treatment,” she told reporters. “Pfizer Canada has assured us that we will have our full allotment and I believe Europe will also receive its full allotment.”
The premier of Alberta said on Monday his province would run out of doses within a day.
The premier of Ontario, the most populous province, said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should be doing more to pressure the head of Pfizer.
“We’ve got to be on these guys like a blanket. I’d be outside that guy’s house – every time he moved, I’d say ‘Where’s our vaccines’?” Doug Ford told reporters.
Quebec Premier Francois Legault urged Ottawa to ban non-essential international travel and better enforce a mandatory 14-day quarantine for arriving passengers.
Trudeau, in a separate briefing, told Canadians not to travel abroad and said Ottawa could if necessary “introduce new measures without warning”. He did not give details.
(Additional reporting by Allison Lampert in Montreal and Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Editing by Alexandra Hudson)