OTTAWA: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the first of many freezer-packed COVID-19 vaccine vials have arrived in Canada.
Trudeau tweeted a picture of them being taken off a plane on Sunday (Dec 13). Canada’s health regulator approved the vaccine made by US drugmaker Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech last Wednesday.
The Canadian government recently amended its contract with Pfizer so that it would deliver up to 249,000 doses this month. Trudeau says it is good news but he is urging Canadians to continue to wear masks, avoid gatherings and to download a government app that lets users know if they’ve come in contact with those who have tested positive.
Canada and the United States are set to become the first Western nations after the UK to begin inoculations with the vaccine developed by Pfizer and Germany's BioNTech.
The initial 30,000 doses will go to 14 sites around Canada. The most vulnerable people, including the elderly in long-term care facilities and healthcare workers, will be first in line for shots.
"Some flights will arrive tonight. Some flights will arrive tomorrow. Some trucks will cross the border tomorrow, so it's all coming in the coming day or two," Major-General Dany Fortin told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.
The vaccines left Belgium, where they were produced, on Friday, and travelled to Germany and the United States before being split up and sent to inoculation points in Canada.
The distribution timetable is going according to plans, and administration points for the vaccine will slowly be increased starting this week, Fortin said on the Rosemary Barton Live morning show.
"The intent here is to ensure that we continue to have regular drip feed of vaccines in the coming weeks," with 249,000 doses expected to be in Canada by the end of the year, he said.
Forecasting a rapid acceleration of spread of the novel coronavirus during the second wave, Canada's federal health authorities on Friday called for provinces to impose more health restrictions heading into the holidays.
The country has had 454,852 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 6,011 new infections reported on Saturday. On Friday, health officials said Canada could see 12,000 new cases per day by January.
Canada is expected to approve a second vaccine from Moderna "reasonably soon" and the country will be ready to accept shipments of it by the end of the week, Fortin said.
On the same show Supriya Sharma, senior medical adviser at Health Canada, said review of the Moderna vaccine was ongoing and that important data was expected later this week.
She also outlined guidance about potential allergic reactions to the Pfizer shot after reports of two such incidents on the first day of vaccinations in Britain.
On Saturday, Canada said anyone with vaccine allergies should not take the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
"If you have an allergy to a vaccine or this vaccine or any components of the vaccine, you should not get it," Sharma said. "But if you have other allergies, you can go ahead and get vaccinated."
Health Canada will be monitoring people who are inoculated for adverse reactions or side effects, she said.
Officials have said they expect to receive 6 million doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines before the end of March. Each vaccine requires two doses, given about three weeks apart.
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