Canada will start receiving its first doses of Pfizer Inc’s COVID-19 vaccine before the end of December, sooner than expected, with millions more to follow in early 2021, officials said on Monday.
The news could help the minority Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau fend off attacks from opposition parties that have accused Ottawa of acting too slowly to tackle a worsening coronavirus second wave.
Officials had initially expected to receive a total of six million doses of vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna Inc by the end of March. That would be enough to inoculate three million people as both vaccines require two shots about a month apart.
But Trudeau said up to 249,000 doses of the vaccine Pfizer is producing with German partner BionNTech SE would arrive this month, and a further three million doses should be delivered at the start of 2021.
Trudeau dismissed the suggestion that his government had pressed for early delivery of vaccines to relieve political attacks by the opposition.
“We know there is a tremendous amount of uncertainty in terms of which vaccines were going to arrive first … we wanted not to get people’s hopes up,” he told a briefing, repeating that Ottawa expects health regulators to approve the Pfizer vaccine this week.
Erin O’Toole, leader of the official opposition Conservatives, said it was unacceptable Trudeau had not made clear when every Canadian would be vaccinated.
Several provinces are reimposing restrictions on businesses and limiting the size of gatherings as the number of new cases sets daily records. Canada has reported a total of 415,182 cases of COVID-19 and 12,665 deaths.
Ontario, the most populous province, announced on Monday that it would prioritize vaccinating healthcare workers and staff, residents and essential visitors in long-term care homes, and adults in the province’s Indigenous communities.
“Our first shipments of a very small number of doses could arrive as early as next week,” Premier Doug Ford told a briefing. “But we’re still very far … from having the millions of vaccines we need for mass immunizations.”