OTTAWA: Canada will start receiving its first doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine before the end of December, sooner than expected, with millions more to follow in early 2021, officials said on Monday (Dec 7).
The news could help the minority Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau fend off attacks from opposition parties that have accused Ottawa of acting too slowly to tackle a worsening coronavirus second wave.
Officials had initially expected to receive a total of six million doses of vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna by the end of March.
That would be enough to inoculate three million people as both vaccines require two shots about a month apart.
But Trudeau said up to 249,000 doses of the vaccine Pfizer is producing with German partner BionNTech SE would arrive this month, and a further three million doses should be delivered at the start of 2021.
"It has been a difficult year, and we are not out of this crisis yet. But now, vaccines are coming," he told a briefing, repeating that Ottawa expects health regulators to approve the Pfizer vaccine this week.
Several provinces are reimposing restrictions on businesses and limiting the size of gatherings as the number of new cases sets daily records. Canada has reported a total of 415,182 cases of COVID-19 and 12,665 deaths.
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The doses will initially be delivered to 14 sites so priority groups such as healthcare workers, the elderly and people living in remote indigenous communities can be inoculated against the virus. The Pfizer vaccine was shown to be 95 per cent effective at preventing illness in a large clinical trial.
The armed forces will help with what Trudeau called the "incredibly complex" task of distributing the vaccines across what is the world's second largest nation by area, much of it remotely populated.
Erin O'Toole, leader of the official opposition Conservatives, said it was unacceptable Trudeau had not made clear when every Canadian would be vaccinated.