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Canada faces more vaccine upheaval amid ongoing Moderna delays

No firm timeline on doses expected for later this month
Delivery delays are ongoing for Moderna and Pfizer's coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines to Canada.

Ottawa has not been able to confirm how many Moderna Inc. vaccine are set to arrive in Canada later this month amid ongoing delivery delays from the pharmaceutical giant.

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, revealed Thursday that 180,000 doses arrived in the country earlier in the day.

The country had previously been expecting 230,000 doses this week and next.

“I can’t really tell you what the quantity will be [the week of February 22], but we are not expecting to receive Moderna’s 249,000 doses,” he said, referring to the increased number of doses previously expected.

Fortin added Moderna is facing growing demand for its vaccine and global challenges for production.

Despite the ongoing shortages, he said there is no reason to doubt Moderna will meet its commitment of delivering 2 million doses by the end of March.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last Friday he’s been assured Moderna deliveries will resume normally after the latest delay, but those assurances now seem unlikely to come to fruition.

Canada is also facing vaccine rollout issues from Pfizer Inc.

No Pfizer shipments arrived in the country last week it is only receiving 82% of the previously expected deliveries for the weeks of February 1 and February 8.

This comes as Pfizer revamps its production facilities in Belgium to expand its manufacturing capacity. 

To date, just over 1 million doses have been administered in Canada: 870,000 first doses and 113,000 second doses.

Both the Pfizer and Moderna require two doses.

Meanwhile, the European Union has been floating the idea of imposing export controls on vaccines produced within its member states to ensure supply for EU members is prioritized.

The potential measures would mean countries in which vaccines are manufactured would require approval to ship to non-EU countries.

Trudeau said last week he’s received assurances from European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen that those measures will not affect the delivery of vaccines to Canada.

Fortin said Thursday he does not anticipate potential export controls becoming a problem.

“We’ve had very positive answers to date and we’ve been able to receive our shipments as planned this week,” he said.

Most of the Moderna vaccine is manufactured in the U.S. state of Massachusetts and non-EU member Switzerland.

Federal officials also revealed Canada would be receiving a minimum of 1.9 million doses between now and June from the COVAX pool, a global sharing program meant to ensure poor countries are able to access vaccine doses.

COVAX allows richer countries to secure doses for both themselves and for poorer countries to ensure a more equitable distribution of vaccine across the world.

So far Canada is the only G7 country tapping doses from that pool.

Canada’s initial doses will come from Astra Zeneca plc — a vaccine not yet approved by Canadian regulators.