Rumours that have been spreading for days about delays of the COVID-19 vaccines into Canada were confirmed by the federal government Thursday.
According to Ottawa, the Moderna vaccines will be reduced again for the next delivery.
The first reduced delivery of the highly sought after vaccine landed in Canada today containing 180,000 doses instead of the originally promised 230,000.
Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin is in charge of vaccine deliveries and said he has no idea how many doses of the vaccine are coming for the week of Feb 22. Canada was originally promised 249,000.
“The quantities that we expect to receive remain to be confirmed by the manufacturer so at this time I can’t tell you what the quantity will be,” Fortin said.
Fortin said Moderna has not given them specific reasons for the reductions but assured media that they are doing their best to ship doses to countries in a fair manner and will ramp-up deliveries to meet the target of two million doses of their vaccine by the end of March.
Canada is greatly relying on the Moderna vaccine for vaccinating remote Indigenous communities. Moderna can be stored at -20 C where the more fragile Pfizer vaccine requires storage at a temperature of -70 C making transportation difficult.
In January, Pfizer announced delays in their deliveries to Canada. Now with the reductions to this week’s Moderna deliveries and more delays on the way, Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller says it is too early to speculate if that will have an impact on vaccinations in remote Indigenous communities.
“We’re still on track to meet our end of March objective to having administered both doses of the vaccine to 75 per cent of people in regions that are considered higher risk,” Miller said.
Miller did, however, called the Moderna delay a “bump in the road” with vaccinations underway in 320 communities and 65,000 doses administered to date.
Miller went on to contradict himself by saying that any delay in vaccines is concerning and mentioned that Canada does have options with their large vaccine portfolio.
One of the options Miller eluded to is Oxford University’s AstraZeneca vaccine. The vaccine has been approved for use in Britain but scepticism exists around its effectiveness for people 65 and older.
When questioned if that vaccine will be coming to Canada anytime soon, officials said it may be available in Canada sometime after March.
Miller said there are “fault lines” throughout the vaccine rollout and mentioned Indigenous communities not situated in the north have so far been left out of early vaccination plans and with more delays of Canada’s already short supply, those fault lines can only get worse.
Miller said ISC will continue to advocate for vulnerable Indigenous communities including those in urban settings.
“That scientific reality does not end at the reserve line. It exists in urban communities it exists throughout the far north.”
Milller said the plan for phase one of vaccinations, January to March, are to those most vulnerable and deciding exactly who to vaccinate is under provincial jurisdiction.
ISC Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tom Wong said there are federal and provincial working groups currently discussing vaccination plans for urban Indigenous peoples and said any Indigenous person who wants a vaccine will have the chance to get one by summer.
In the meantime Wong said things are improving as active cases have greatly reduced.
“Right now less than two thousand active first nations on reserve cases have been reported for the first time since early December,” Wong said.
For the time being the federal government is recommending people continue the strong measures in place to keep case counts as low as possible.