Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand said today that Moderna will ship seven million more vaccine doses to Canada this month, ending weeks of uncertainty over when the Massachusetts-based company would deliver the long-promised order.
Unlike Pfizer, which has been delivering vaccines to Canada at a steady pace since March, Moderna’s deliveries have been more erratic as the company has grappled with production issues at its plants in Europe.
Moderna has routinely slashed deliveries or punted them to later dates, upending plans to set up vaccine clinics and slowing down the immunization campaign. Starting next week, Anand said, the deliveries will start to stabilize.
The first batch of those seven million confirmed doses will start to arrive in Canada the week of June 14, she said. “We will be in a position to provide more specifics concerning specific shipment dates and quantities next week,” Anand said.
Moderna has delivered 6.1 million doses to Canada already. With the seven million promised today, the company is now expected to have shipped roughly 13.1 million doses to Canada by month’s end.
That figure is short of the 14.3 million doses the company originally promised would arrive in the first six months of 2021.
Anand said Moderna’s earlier promises were just “targets,” so the company is not in breach of its contract.
She said Canada should be “grateful” the company is prioritizing this country now “in light of the incredible global demand for vaccines that we are seeing across the board.” She said seven million more shots over the next three weeks is “a very good number for Canada.”
Between the planned Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca shipments, Anand said, a total of 55.8 million vaccine doses is expected to be delivered to Canada by the end of July — and that number likely will be even higher, given Moderna has not yet confirmed its shipments for the month of July.
“To be clear, that is the minimum number of doses that we anticipate receiving in that timeframe,” Anand said.
That’s enough product to fully vaccinate 27.9 million people with both doses — or roughly 84 per cent of the 31.9 million Canadians over the age of 12 who are eligible for a vaccine.
The federal government expects the provinces and territories will be able to absorb this impending flood of new supply, given the insatiable demand for second doses.
For the first time, Moderna will be shipping its product to Canada from U.S.-based plants.
Because former U.S. president Donald Trump’s Operation Warp Speed bankrolled much of the vaccine’s development and production, Moderna has earmarked all U.S. production for the American marketplace until now. The U.S. is now awash in shots and demand for doses there is declining.
With the shots coming from U.S. facilities, Anand said, there are “certain regulatory and logistical considerations” that Health Canada must address before provinces and territories can start administering these vaccines. Health Canada authorizes both the product and the individual facilities that produce them.
A spokesperson for Moderna confirmed this is the first time U.S.-made doses will be shipped to an international market.
“We are excited about this development and optimistic that total deliveries to Canada will meet our revised commitment for the quarter,” said Patricia Gauthier, general manager for Moderna’s Canadian operations.
“Moderna will continue working hard to help protect Canadians from COVID and its variants and look forward to bringing other innovative vaccines to the market in the future.”
New infections drop dramatically but Tam urges caution
With 72 per cent of all Canadians over the age of 12 partially vaccinated, the COVID-19 case count in Canada has declined dramatically.
The number of new infections reported daily nationwide has fallen below 1,800 for the first time since the fall of 2020, said Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer.
The average number of people in hospital for COVID-19 has dropped 55 per cent since the mid-April peak, to 2,000. Fewer than 850 people are being treated in an ICU, a 40 per cent drop from the height of the third wave, Tam said.
The number of new deaths has also declined by 40 per cent, with 32 deaths being reported daily.
Tam urged caution, however, warning that one dose of a COVID-19 shot is not enough.
She said Canadians must go for that second booster shot to protect themselves, especially with the highly infectious Delta variant of COVID-19 — the strain that was first detected in India — circulating in some areas.
Pointing to some early research, Tam said one-third of all people who have received just one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine could still contract the virus and 20 per cent of those cases could develop into serious illness.
She said COVID-19 is still “circulating widely” and people need to be cautious about their movements until they receive the second booster shot. As of today, just 10 per cent of Canadians eligible for a vaccine are fully vaccinated.
Tam said provinces and territories should begin to relax their most restrictive public health measures only once 75 per cent of the population is partially vaccinated and 20 per cent have had their second shots.
With the Moderna shipments announced today, Tam said she expects booster shots will be “provided faster as the weeks go on.”
She said reaching that 75/20 level of coverage will “protect hospitals from being overwhelmed.”
Some provinces with metrics well below that threshold now have started to allow for more outdoor activities. Tam said Canadians still need to be vigilant.
“If you have the Delta variant in your particular community, you have to be really careful what you do in between the first and second dose, for sure. We can’t be too careful,” she said.