Vaccine ‘ramp-up phase’: 1.3M Moderna doses in March; more than 10M Pfizer by June

TORONTO — After weeks of uncertainty, Moderna Inc. has confirmed to the Canadian government that it will deliver 1.3 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine next month.

Between two shipments — during the weeks of March 8 and March 22 — the company will meet its first-quarter commitment of two million doses to Canada, Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin said Thursday during a federal press conference.

“As we head into spring, we are collectively gearing up for what we call the ‘ramp-up phase.’ We have been closely planning with provinces and territories to provide support to their immunization strategies,” said Fortin, the military general heading up vaccine logistics for the Public Health Agency of Canada. 

The 1.3 million doses coming in March will nearly double the existing deliveries of Moderna vaccines. More than 500,000 Moderna shots have already been administered, and another 168,000 doses are arriving in the country this week. Fortin said the government is still working to confirm exact dates and dose numbers for the company’s second-quarter shipments.

Most of the vaccines administered so far in Canada have been the Pfizer-BioNTech shot, shipments of which the company delayed drastically in January and February. But officials now expect the company to make its four-million-dose commitment by the end of March, as part of the expected weekly shipments of 444,000 doses next month. In the forthcoming “ramp-up phase” in the spring, Fortin said, the Pfizer doses are expected to climb dramatically, with 769,000 doses of the vaccine per week for the first two weeks of April. That rate will bring the Pfizer shipments to over 10.8 million between April and June.

More than 1.5 million doses of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines have been administered across the country, including to 40 per cent of seniors over the age of 80, figures that Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Njoo called “promising.” But as new variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus cause new outbreaks in Canada and other countries, Njoo stressed public health measures must be maintained, including in areas of the country that are starting to reopen.

“Just because we are now allowed to resume activities like going to the gym or a pub doesn’t necessarily mean we should. Determine what you need to do and assess your risk,” he said Thursday.

Federal officials also confirmed a virtual meeting between federal, provincial and territorial governments, as well as Indigenous leaders and other “key stakeholders” for March 9. Fortin said that he anticipates participants will “come together and compare notes” about the vaccine rollout so far. 

“What we all hope to see is provinces sharing important parts of their plan and their considerations and see where we could [add value] in addition to what we’re doing so far,” he said Thursday. 

“I think it’s fair to say that provinces have reasons to be hesitant about the way forward because we have seen over the last several weeks scarcity of vaccines and delay in shipments. But we’re coming out of this, and coming out strong.” 

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