Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he’s troubled by the slow pace of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout and is vowing to raise the lacklustre vaccination numbers with premiers during a conference call later this week.
Canada already has received more than 424,050 doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines — but only 35 per cent of those doses have been administered by the provinces, with roughly 148,000 Canadians having received a shot so far.
Ontario’s vaccination program has been particularly slow: just 50,000 doses have been administered in the province since the inoculation campaign began on Dec. 15. If the province continues to administer just 2,500 shots a day, it will take over a decade to vaccinate all adults in the province.
“I think Canadians, including me, are frustrated to see vaccines in freezers and not in people’s arms. That’s why we’re going to continue working closely with the provinces both to deliver vaccines to the provinces and to support them as they need it in terms of getting more vaccines out to vulnerable populations and front line workers as quickly as possible,” Trudeau said.
“Now is the time, with the new year upon us, to really accelerate and that’s certainly what I’ll be talking with the premiers about on Thursday — how the federal government can support and help [with] getting vaccines even more quickly out to Canadians,” he said, citing a planned first ministers’ meeting call.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford acknowledged today there have been some “bumps in the road” — the provincial vaccination campaign was partially paused over the Christmas holidays — but he is expecting distribution to ramp up significantly over the coming days.
“Our message to the federal government is, just keep these vaccines coming because we’re going to be running out. Once our machine gets going and it’s going … watch out, there is no one who can compete against us,” Ford said.
Ontario’s vaccination rate is currently among the lowest in the country on a per capita basis.
Trudeau said Canada is expected to have roughly one million doses of the vaccine on hand by the end of January — enough to inoculate 500,000 people with the two-dose vaccine regime. He repeated his pledge to procure enough shots to vaccinate every adult Canadian who wants a shot by the end of September.
Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the military commander leading vaccine logistics at the Public Health Agency of Canada, said Canada will receive 208,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine each week for the next three weeks, while 171,000 Moderna shots are expected to arrive on January 11.
“We’re ready for a sustained tempo of vaccines throughout the month of January,” Fortin said. “We’re working diligently to ensure a continuous and predictable flow of vaccines.”
Fortin said his team at the national operations centre will be sending more cold storage equipment — freezers and thermal shippers, among other tools — to help provinces set up more sites to administer the temperature-sensitive Pfizer vaccine. At the start of the vaccination campaign, there were just 14 sites nationwide where people could get the Pfizer shot.
“All of that will facilitate the different jurisdictions to administer the vaccines safely and effectively,” he said.
While all provinces have started delivering shots, most have stockpiled the second dose to ensure they have enough supply on hand.
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said that because provinces can count on a specific number of doses arriving each week for the foreseeable future, they can start to vaccinate as many people as possible.
“I think provinces are looking to not hold back that second dose because they want to more rapidly immunize the population with that first shot,” Tam said.