TORONTO — Promising news from both Moderna and Pfizer on the hunt for a successful COVID-19 vaccine has caused a whirlwind of questions about how the vaccine would be rolled out in Canada, as case numbers continue to set records in provinces across the country.
But despite officials in both Ontario and Alberta staking claim to a specific number of early vaccine doses, federal officials are staying mum about how many vaccines each province will receive once approved by Health Canada.
On Wednesday, Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said the province expects to receive a combined 2.4 million doses of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines during the first three months of 2021, with more to follow after that.
Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, also commented on the initial rollout of the vaccines Wednesday, noting that the province is anticipating approximately 465,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 221,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine.
The province’s health minister later echoed those numbers, noting that vaccines will likely arrive in Alberta in “early 2021.”
Officials in both provinces say their governments are participating in Canada’s national procurement of COVID-19 vaccines—yet federal officials will not confirm these numbers, nor whether a decision has been made at the federal level about how doses will be split between provinces.
When pressed on the topic Wednesday, Minister of Health Patty Hajdu would not confirm Ontario’s projections, noting that the federal government is working with the provinces and territories to determine distribution, similar to how it determines the sharing of personal protective equipment.
“The way that we have negotiated with provinces and territories when we’re procuring on behalf of all Canadians is to ensure that we do this in collaboration and through negotiations with all provinces and territories at the table,” Hajdu said.
“Those negotiations continue. They’ve been very smooth to date. As you know, we have agreements for the distribution of personal protective equipment, for the rapid test and we will use the same approach with vaccines.”
Speaking to CTV’s Power Play Wednesday, Health Parliamentary Secretary Darren Fisher went as far as to say he was “not aware” of where Elliot got her numbers from.
“I’m not aware of where she got her numbers,” he said when asked if Elliot was wrong in her projection of how many initial vaccine doses Ontario would receive.
“I’m not sure what provinces have for possible numbers that might come forward depending on which contract yields a successful and approved by Health Canada that is safe for Canadians vaccine.”
The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) also declined to comment directly on the how the remaining doses of the vaccine would be delivered.
“Final vaccine allocation and rollout will ultimately be determined by federal, provincial and territorial (FPT) governments, and will be informed by National Advisory Committee on Immunization’s (NACI) final guidance on key populations for early COVID-19 immunization,” a PHAC spokesperson told CTV News by email Wednesday.
“Allocations of vaccines and rollout will be determined by FPT governments, informed by NACI advice.”
Pfizer announced Wednesday it intends to seek approval in the U.S. for emergency use of its vaccine after new test results showed it is 95-per-cent effective, is safe, and works to protect vulnerable older adults.
Similarly, Moderna’s preliminary analysis suggests that their shot is 94.5-per-cent effective and is also nearing the point at which it can be submitted to the USFDA for emergency use authorization.
Hajdu said both manufacturers had also submitted for approval in Canada, which will allow regulators to receive and review data as it comes in. Health Canada will still need to approve both vaccines before they can be distributed — a process experts say may take longer in Canada than the U.S.
The Government of Canada previously signed deals with Pfizer for a minimum of 20 million doses and Moderna for 56 million doses. It also has deals with three other companies that are developing COVID-19 vaccines.
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