Canada doesn’t know how many more Moderna doses will be delivered, or why there are delays

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the military commander leading vaccine logistics at the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), said today Canada doesn’t know how many Moderna doses will arrive in the weeks ahead and the company hasn’t said why it has reduced shipments to our country.

Speaking to reporters at a public health briefing, Fortin said 180,000 Moderna doses arrived this morning but the government has no “visibility” on how many more shots will be delivered this month and next.

Despite these unknowns, Fortin said Canada is still expecting 2 million Moderna doses to be delivered by the end of March to meet the prime minister’s promised vaccination targets.

According to a planning document disseminated to the provinces this week, PHAC has already warned provinces to expect disruptions with the next scheduled Moderna delivery, which is set to arrive on Feb. 22.

The Massachusetts-based company, which delivers shots every three weeks, told Canadian officials last week that the shipments for the week of Feb. 1 would be reduced by 20-25 per cent, and now it appears this month’s second shipment is also likely to be lower than expected.

“Moderna reduced shipment quantities for the week of 1-7 Feb. (from 230,400 to 180,000 doses). The week of 22 Feb. will also be impacted, but Moderna cannot confirm allocations for that week yet,” the PHAC document sent to the province reads.

Fortin said he had no idea just how many doses will be on hand by the end of the month, but he knows it will be less than expected.

“I can’t really tell you what the quantity will be. We don’t expect to receive 249,000 at this time,” he said. “We’ll soon be able to share that with provinces, in confidence.”

While Pfizer has offered some explanation for why its shipments have been dramatically lower than expected — plant upgrades at a facility in Belgium caused deliveries to drop by 80 per cent — Fortin said Moderna hasn’t said why it’s had to put off tens of thousands of doses to a later delivery date.

“They haven’t shared the specific challenges that they may experience in their yields or in their production,” Fortin said. “I think Moderna has indicated that they are, in good faith, trying their best to provide as many doses as possible.”

Canada ranks 33rd on vaccine effort

Health Canada regulators are expected to approve another promising vaccine candidate — the product from AstraZeneca — in the “coming days,” which could give a jolt to Canada’s stalled vaccination campaign.

But for that product, too, Fortin said he didn’t know how many, if any, doses would be delivered in the coming weeks.

Canada has fallen behind other developed nations in the number of shots administered per capita as supply disruptions derail planned vaccinations. 

According to data collated by the University of Oxford-based Our World in Data, Canada now ranks 33rd globally, well behind allies like the United States and the United Kingdom but also middle-income countries like Poland and Serbia.

Canada’s vaccination effort has also been outpaced so far by those in Bahrain, Denmark, Germany, Israel, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain and the United Arab Emirates, among dozens of others.

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