Canada gearing up to distribute Moderna s COVID-19 vaccine, pending approval

Canada gearing up to distribute Moderna s COVID-19 vaccine, pending approval
OTTAWA -- The federal government is making plans to ship doses of Modernas vaccine candidate across the country including to the North on the assumption that Health Canada will soon be authorizing it the second COVID-19 shot safe for use in this country.

At the latest briefing on the status of Canadas national COVID-19 vaccine rollout plans, Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the top military general in charge of Canadas distribution, said that dry runs are underway under the assumption that Moderna shots will be administered before the end of the month.

We re taking deliberate steps to ensure the safe and efficient distribution of the Moderna vaccine candidate across the country, Fortin said. We ll deliver the Moderna vaccine to the locations specified by provinces and territories, so that they can commence immunization as quickly as possible once it s approved and available.

On Tuesday, the federal government announced it had updated its contract with Moderna to access up to 168,000 doses of its vaccine in December, arriving between 24 and 48 hours after regulatory approval. It was also announced that, by next week, another 56 distribution sites will be set up to administer doses to prioritized groups of Canadians across the country.

Were continuing our planning with sort of the planning assumption that the Moderna vaccine will be available, said Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Njoo.

Health Canada is still evaluating the Moderna vaccine submission for safety and efficacy, after beginning that process on Oct. 12.

Health Canada Director of Medical Sciences Dr. Marc Berthiaume said Wednesday that the agency is still awaiting quality control information from the pharmaceutical giant, but expects the assessment to be completed in the coming weeks.

A key difference with the Moderna distribution plan from how things have been rolling with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine so far, is that Canada will be in charge of picking up, bringing home, and getting the shipments across the country. In the case of the Pfizer vaccine, the manufacturer contracted UPS to handle the delivery given the extreme cold temperature requirements of that vaccine.

On Wednesday, officials said that Moderna will be packing up its doses and putting them on dry ice with data loggers attached to monitor the temperature, but from there FedEx Express Canada and Innomar Strategies Inc. Canadas contracted distributors will be picking up Canadas Moderna doses in Europe, and flying them to a central location in Canada. Then, the allotments for each region of the country will be sent out.

For the territories, Modernas vaccine will be the first they receive, after the decision was made to not send up the -70 C Pfizer shots. Five freezers capable of keeping the Moderna doses stable at -20 C were delivered to the territories by the Canadian Armed Forces earlier this week.

Because the North didnt receive the Pfizer shots, its expected they will receive more than the per capita percentage of Moderna vaccines. Additional Moderna doses will also be directed to vulnerable remote and Indigenous communities as well, in the weeks ahead.

Officials said that itll be the responsibility of the provinces to see that the doses allotted to Indigenous communities get there, though Indigenous Services Canada will be involved.

Chief Medical Officer of Public Health and Indigenous Services Canada Dr. Tom Wong said at the briefing that talks are ongoing about ensuring the equitable distribution of coming doses, though there isnt a clear plan for what would happen if some provinces dont agree with how the doses are being divided up.

Fortin also noted that the deliveries wont be perfectly equitable every time, because of the differences in shipping vaccines to urban and remote locations.

While we have a per capita distribution, it is entirely possible that a particular community gets an appropriate number of vaccines, all at once, while others do not until we have the next shipment. Only because of the practicality of delivering this over a very large country that s sparsely populated, in the middle of winter, in places where there isn t even daylight for months, Fortin said.

As this planning continues, so does the administration of Pfizer vaccines, with more provinces beginning their immunization campaigns on Wednesday.

So far, according to Fortin, the vaccine effort has been a success.

First deliveries went exactly according to plan. The National Operations Center at the Public Health Agency had positive in-transit visibility on each shipment The level of cooperation between Pfizer-BioNTech, the logistics service provider UPS, and the Canadian Border Services Agency was excellent throughout, said Fortin.

He said that while Canada doesnt yet have a breakdown of the number of doses to be expected from Pfizer in Januaryas its something the company is sorting out amid numerous global ordersthe government have assurances that well get the quantity that s been earmarked for Canada.
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