“We were expecting to receive four million doses to Canada by the end of February, first part of March. We’ve now been told that that’s more like about 3.5 million, so we’re short about half a million doses,” Elliott said, speaking to reporters.
Earlier in the day, government sources in Alberta told Global News that Ottawa has informed the province that Pfizer-BioNTech deliveries to Canada will be cut by 13 percent – the 500,000 doses Elliott mentioned.
During a press briefing on Thursday, Maj. Gen. Dany Fortin, Canada’s vaccine distribution czar, stood by the federal estimates, saying that Pfizer has given assurances that the contractually agreed-upon four million doses would be delivered by the end of March, as scheduled.
However, reports say that the federal government’s pledge is conditional on Health Canada’s approval of Pfizer’s request to boost the number of dose extracts from a single vial, from five to six. Pfizer’s plan also requires a special low dead-volume needle syringe, of which there is a shortage in Canada.
The row over jabs comes amid a crippling COVID-19 vaccine shortage in Canada, with some healthcare providers cancelling scheduled inoculations, as others are told that they must wait 42 days to receive their second dose, instead of the recommended 21 days.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford put pressure on Health Canada to approve other vaccines, including Johnson & Johnson’s and AstraZeneca’s candidates, telling reporters on Thursday that additional vaccines would be needed to cover the Pfizer shortfall, slamming the US drugmaker in the process.
To date, 887,236 vaccine doses have been administered in Canada - a number far below other nations, including Israel, China, India and the United States.
The vaccine shortage is, in part, owing to Pfizer’s retooling of its European production facility. Canada now receives its vaccine supplies from Pfizer’s European production facility after former US President Donald Trump signed an executive order to prioritize domestic distribution of vaccines over shipments to foreign countries.
Fortin previously conceded that the country will likely experience a shortage of vaccine doses through the end of the first quarter of 2021.