Canada’s vaccine distribution plans moving ahead despite Trump executive order

By: Terry Haig
Canada’s federal intergovernmental affairs minister, Dominic LeBlanc, is downplaying an executive order U.S. President Donald Trump signed yesterday that–theoretically, at least–could limit how many doses of the anti-COVID Pfizer vaccine Canada is set to receive as early as next week.
The order is ostensibly aimed at ensuring that the U.S. government obtains enough COVID-19 vaccine doses to inoculate Americans who chose to get vaccinated before sharing any of the supply with other countries or international entities.
However, many in Washington described the order as a largely symbolic effort by Trump to take credit for vaccine development–with one administration official telling CNN the signing was a “publicity stunt.
In Ottawa Tuesday, LeBlanc said he was “confident” Pfizer would be able to fulfil its contractual obligations to deliver millions of vaccine doses to countries around the world.
“With respect to the Pfizer doses, we expect them to start arriving in the coming days, in the next week or so,” LeBlanc told reporters at a COVID-19 briefing.
“We have no reason to think whatsoever that access to the Pfizer vaccine will be in any way disturbed. Deliberately, in the contracts themselves, we contemplated having access to production facilities on more than one continent.”
A Pfizer spokesperson echoed LeBlanc’s optimism, telling CBC News that the company is “committed to honouring our agreements” with Canada and countries have “a number of procurement routes to rapidly secure vaccine supply.”
“We are a global company that prioritizes patients all over the world. Pfizer and BioNTech are committed to bringing this vaccine candidate to help meet the global public health need. We will work closely with international initiatives, governments and other vaccine manufacturers, as appropriate,” the spokesperson said.
The comments came a day after Canada, which already has enough vaccines secured to protect a population four times its size–the most of any country in the world–ordered an additional 20 million doses from Moderna, bringing its confirmed order commitment to 40 million doses from the Massachusetts-based pharmaceutical giant.
And it came on the day Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the largest mass immunization effort in Canadian history could begin as early as next week and that the country expects to receive up to 249,000 doses of the two-dose vaccine developed Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech, pending the expected approval this week by Health Canada.
The logistics for distributing the vaccines in Canada continue to be tested as the Canadian military carries out distribution rehearsals this week.
Also on Tuesday, Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, called distribution plans a “rapidly evolving situation,” saying the first doses of the vaccine will likely be given only to people who can physically be at one of the 14 delivery sites identified by provincial governments for the first arrivals of the vaccine.
And, the CBC’s John Paul Tasker reports, the vaccines Canadians receive will likely not be coming from the U.S.–making Trump’s executive order moot–at least in terms of delivery to Canada.
Quoting an unnamed Canadian government official, Tasker writes that that most–if not all–of Canada’s initial supply of the Pfizer vaccines will be coming from a plant in Puurs, Belgium that is supplying Europe, Canada, Japan and the U.K. in the coming months.
Tasker’s reporting appeared to be confirmed by the military commander leading the distribution efforts, Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin.
“We’re exercising a dry run this week. Boxes are in the air right now, “Fortin said “They left Belgium and are on their way to the next transit node in the cold chain. They’re being monitored, so we will learn.”
“This is one way this week where we will learn how the process will flow, if adjustments need to be made.”
With files from CBC News (John Paul Tasker, Thomson Reuters) The Canadian Press (Mia Rabson) ·