More than 650,000 AstraZeneca doses to arrive in the ‘coming weeks’: Fortin

Politics

After a week of competing messages about the usefulness of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, the federal government confirmed today it will continue to procure the product — and that well over a million doses are expected to arrive between now and the end of June.

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin responds to a question on COVID vaccines during a news conference in Ottawa.(Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

After a week of competing messages about the usefulness of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, the federal government confirmed today it will continue to procure the product — and that well over a million doses are expected to arrive between now and the end of June.

And now that Health Canada has authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech product for adolescents aged 12 to 15, federal officials say they expect to have enough of that product on hand to vaccinate that younger cohort by Canada Day.

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the military commander leading vaccine logistics at the Public Health Agency of Canada, said Canada will receive 665,000 doses of AstraZeneca from COVAX, the global vaccine sharing alliance, "in the coming weeks." That product, like the last COVAX delivery, is expected to come from a facility in South Korea.

Joelle Paquette, the director general responsible for vaccine procurement at Public Services and Procurement Canada, said one million more AstraZeneca doses made by the company itself will arrive sometime in June.

Canada is also expecting some 1.5 million more doses from the Serum Institute of India in the May-through-June period, but those deliveries are much less certain. The Indian government has blocked that company — which produces a biologically identical version of the AstraZeneca product called Covishield — from shipping its product overseas.

As India grapples with a deadly surge in its COVID-19 caseload — the country is posting more than 400,000 new cases a day — its government has restricted virtually all exports of Serum Institute-made shots, diverting most of the 2.4 million doses the institute churns out each day to the domestic vaccination campaign.

According to Health Canada data, some 1.7 million AstraZeneca doses have been administered in Canada as of April 24.

The new planned shipments can be used to give people who've already received a first dose of AstraZeneca the second shot in the two-dose regime.

While studies underway in the U.K. now are looking at whether it's practical to mix one dose of AstraZeneca with a second dose of an mRNA vaccine like Pfizer, the current federal guidance is for all recipients to get two doses of the same product.

Health Canada offered parents anxious about their unvaccinated children some fresh hope Wednesday by clearing the Pfizer vaccine for use in people as young as 12 years old.

After reviewing clinical trial data submitted by the New York-based company last month, regulators have determined the mRNA shot is safe to use in people 12 to 15 years of age. The previous age cutoff for the vaccine was 16.

Canada is expecting to receive 29.7 million doses from Pfizer by the end of June, with another 18.3 million expected in the July-through-September period. Based on a two-dose regime, that's enough supply to get 24 million people fully vaccinated.

Combined with future deliveries of AstraZeneca, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson shots, Fortin said there should be more than enough supply on hand for all adults and this younger cohort to get a vaccine by the nation's birthday.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John Paul (J.P.) Tasker is a reporter in the CBC's Parliamentary bureau in Ottawa. He can be reached at john.tasker@cbc.ca.

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