Anita Anand made the comments during an emergency debate in the House of Commons Tuesday evening, after Conservative health critic Michelle Rempel Garner asked what recourse the federal government negotiated with Pfizer before signing the contract.
Last week, Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin announced the country’s entire shipment of vaccines from Pfizer would be deferred for a week.
“It will start back up in the first two weeks of February,” Fortin told a press conference.
Rempel Garner pointed to Italy, which is reportedly mulling whether to pursue legal action against Pfizer over the delay.
“I’m really wondering why the federal government has been so quiet,” Rempel Garner said. “What recourse did the federal government negotiate with Pfizer and why haven’t they decided to pursue it?”
Anand said “as a matter of contractual law, any contractual party can sue another party if there is a breach of contract.”
“But the reality, Mr. Speaker, is that we believe that the most effective course of action is to continue to negotiate with our suppliers to ensure that they are obliging and abiding by their contractual commitments,” she said. “And that’s exactly what we’ve been able to secure from Pfizer.”
Anand said Pfizer has committed to deliver their four million doses under contract prior to the end of the first quarter.
“And that has proven to be an effective strategy thus far,” Anand said.
The minister said she has been in contact with Pfizer personally “almost on a daily basis,” to “reiterate firmly the importance for Canada of returning to our regular delivery schedule as soon as possible.”
She noted, though, that the delay in deliveries will allow the pharmaceutical giant to increase its production capacity.
Anand said Canada “can expect a ramp-up of deliveries of vaccines following this disruption.”
She reiterated that Canada is “far from the only country impacted by this disruption,” adding that all countries supplied by Pfizer’s European facility were impacted.
However, Anand said the company has confirmed that “hundreds of thousands” of doses will be delivered to Canada the week of Feb. 15 “and the weeks that follow.”
The minister said between the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, the government still anticipates it will receive six million doses of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of March.
“After that we can expect a significant acceleration in the delivery of authorized vaccines,” she told the House. “From April to June we expect that at least 20 million doses of vaccines will be available to Canadians from coast to coast to coast.”
Anand’s comments come just hours after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters Canada’s vaccine doses are still “very much on track,” despite warnings from the European Union that it might impose controls on European-made vaccine doses
.“I spoke to the CEO of Moderna about an hour and a half ago, so the topic of the recent musings by Europe certainly came up, and (the company) was very, very clear that Canadian contracts that have been signed, and the delivery schedule we have laid out, will be respected,” the prime minister said.
According to Health Canada, as of Thursday, 1,119,225 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been distributed across Canada.
Of those, 856,969 doses have been administered. That means approximately 1.15 per cent of Canadians have been vaccinated to date.
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