“This has been a wonderful week for Canadians. We are going to have vaccines in this country on Monday,” Anand said, speaking in the House of Commons during question period on Monday.
While officials had said that vaccines arriving on Monday was a good possibility, no government voice had given firm confirmation that Dec. 14th would definitively be the day the newly-approved Pfizer coronavirus vaccine would be arriving on Canadian soil.
Speaking on Wednesday, Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, who is leading Canada’s vaccine distribution plans, said the doses would ship from Belgium on Friday and could begin arriving on Monday or Tuesday.
“We expect vaccines to be shipped very soon – by the end of the week,” he said, adding that the final details would become clear as the shipping process gets underway.
It appears those details may have been clarified, given that Anand spoke firmly about the vaccine doses arriving on Monday. Her confirmation comes just one day after officials announced the vaccine’s approval for use in Canada.
Dr. Supriya Sharma, chief medical advisor with the regulatory branch of Health Canada, announced the news in a press conference on Wednesday. She said the approval marked a “momentous occasion.”
“It’s an exceptional day for Canada,” Sharma said.
“In a year where we haven’t had a lot of good news, this is a bit of good news. And I think we should take a moment to acknowledge that — and then we’re all going to get back to work.”
Since the approval, details about the vaccine’s distribution timeline have been trickling out. Ontario Premier Doug Ford confirmed on Thursday that healthcare workers in Toronto and Ottawa would get the province’s first doses next Tuesday, while Alberta says it plans to distribute the doses starting next Wednesday.
The federal government has said that the plan is to roll out initial vaccine doses to four priority groups: residents and employees at long-term care homes, Canadians aged 70 and above, front line health care workers and adults in Indigenous communities.
The Public Health Agency of Canada added that the plan is to begin vaccinating the general population in April, with the goal of inoculating the entire country by the end of September.
“I mean, the geek in me is amazed. No one would have thought, even when we looked back at the first discovery of the virus, that less than a year later we’d be authorizing and then distributing a vaccine,” Sharma said on Wednesday.
Health officials have also stressed that while the approval process happened fast, it was as thorough as the process for any other drug that has been given the go-ahead for use in Canada.
Still, some questions remain about the vaccine. The Pfizer vaccine, which is the first and only vaccine to be approved for use in Canada to date, is not approved for use on those under the age of 16 – that’s just shy of 17 per cent of Canada’s population.
The next steps for immunizing those under the age of 16 are still unclear, as well as the plans for inoculating those who are allergic to the Pfizer vaccine’s ingredients.
The concern comes after two vaccine recipients in the U.K. had allergic reactions to the jab. While both had previous histories of significant allergic reactions, Health Canada is closely monitoring for any adverse reactions to the vaccine.
As it stands now, Sharma has said those with allergies to the vaccine’s active ingredient or any of the vaccine’s other ingredients “should not take it.”
Additionally, there is still more research required with respect to the longevity of the protection afforded by the newly-approved vaccine – though Sharma said that there are promising early findings in this area.
Canada is currently evaluating three other vaccine candidates from Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. The approval of any of these vaccines could speed up the timeline of Canada’s vaccination efforts.