Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference in Ottawa, Tuesday Dec. 1, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference in Ottawa, Tuesday Dec. 1, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

First Pfizer vaccine shots to be given right at delivery sites, not LTC homes: Tam

Pfizer’s vaccine is extremely delicate and must be stored at temperatures below -70 C

Canada’s chief public health officer says the first doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine are likely to be given only to people who can physically be at one of the 14 delivery sites identified by provincial governments for the first arrivals of the vaccine.

Dr. Theresa Tam said at a briefing that it is a “rapidly evolving situation” but acknowledged that this will make it difficult to get long-term care residents vaccinated first.

“It’s true you cannot move residents very easily from a long-term care centre to a vaccine site,” she said. “That’s just the reality.”

It is not clear how this jibes with some provincial plans, including in Quebec, where the health minister said Monday the government intends to ship its first vaccine doses to two long-term care homes.

The Pfizer vaccine, being produced in partnership with Germany’s BioNTech, is in the final stages of review by Health Canada, which is expected to issue a decision this week. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday if the approval comes as expected, Canada will receive the first doses next week, and 249,000 doses by the end of the month.

READ MORE: Canada to get 249,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine in December, Trudeau says

Pfizer Canada spokeswoman Christina Antoniou told The Canadian Press that the company is asking for those doses at first to only be given at the first 14 delivery sites.

She said where the vaccine can be injected is “part of ongoing discussions” with provincial governments, who are in charge of getting the vaccine into patients. However she noted Pfizer’s actual contract for the COVID-19 vaccine is with the federal government.

“Pfizer, the Public Health Agency of Canada and the provinces are working together to finalize preparations at the first point of use sites this week, including training on how to handle the product,” she said. “These are the sites identified by the federal government’s National Operations Centre for initial vaccination of priority populations.”

Tam said she is hopeful that as everyone involved gets more experienced and comfortable transporting and administering the vaccine, things could change.

Pfizer’s vaccine is extremely delicate and must be stored at temperatures below -70 C, until shortly before it is administered. It can be stored in a refrigerator for up to five days, and at room temperature for up to two hours, before it is diluted and then injected.

The ultralow temperature has made the entire delivery process much more complicated for Pfizer than what is being planned for other vaccines yet to come. While other vaccines will be sent by their manufacturers to one national site and then distributed within Canada, Pfizer is shipping its first vaccine doses to 14 sites designated by the provinces.

There are two sites each in Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and Alberta, and one in each of the other six provinces. Eventually the plan is to have 205 sites in the provinces.

The Pfizer vaccine is also too touchy to be shipped north to remote Indigenous communities. That means two of the four priority groups identified for initial vaccines aren’t likely to get access to the first rounds of vaccinations.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommended last week that the first doses go to residents of long-term care and their caregivers, front-line health workers, people over the age of 80 and adults in Indigenous communities where an outbreak would be harder to manage.

Most provinces are following those recommendations almost exactly.

The United Kingdom began vaccinating people with the Pfizer shots Tuesday, after last week being the first country to approve the vaccine.

Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc said an expected executive order from U.S. President Donald Trump to prioritize Pfizer doses for Americans should not affect Canada’s expected deliveries.

READ MORE: Trump, 0 for 2 on tapping Canada’s health resources, may try again with COVID vaccine

LeBlanc says concerns about dose supplies were contemplated when the contracts were signed to ensure supplies could come from more than one location.

Canada’s first doses of Pfizer’s vaccine are to come from lots produced at the company’s plant in Belgium.

Tam says the exciting news about the vaccine is welcome but warns it will be a while before enough doses are injected to control the COVID-19 pandemic.

She said there are now more than 71,000 active cases of COVID-19 nationally, and an average of 92 people are dying of the illness every day. Hospitals in many provinces are feeling the pandemic’s pressure, with more than 2,680 people being treated for COVID-19 in hospitals, almost one-fifth of those in critical care.

Quebec Premier François Legault warned there may be more lockdown measures coming in that province as hospitalizations continued to rise, hitting 835 Tuesday, up by almost 100 patients compared to a week ago.

Nunavut provided a bright spot of news in the pandemic fight Tuesday, with chief public health officer Dr. Michael Patterson noting a milestone had occurred in the territory’s recovery from its first outbreak.

Last month Patterson warned the limited health capacity in Nunavut couldn’t handle much more as four communities struggled with cases. On Tuesday he said three of those four were back to zero cases. There was one new case in Arviat.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusSeniorsvaccines

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The body of Brenda Ware, 35, was found along Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (RCMP handout)
RCMP ask for tips after woman’s body found in Kootenay National Park

Brenda Ware was found along Highway 93 in the park, 54 kilometres north of the town of Radium

Interfor’s Castlegar mill is getting $35 million in upgrades. Photo by: John Boivin
Interfor to invest $35 million at Castlegar mill

Project will enhance productivity and competitiveness

A medical worker prepares vials of the COVID-19 vaccines, Chinese Sinopharm, left, Sputnik V, center, and Pfizer at a vaccine centre, in the Usce shopping mall in Belgrade, Serbia, Thursday, May 6, 2021. Serbian authorities are looking for incentives for people to boost vaccination that has slowed down in recent weeks amid widespread anti-vaccination and conspiracy theories in the Balkan nation. The government has also promised a payment of around 25 euros to everyone who gets vaccinated by the end of May. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
38 new COVID-19 cases, more than 335k vaccines administered in Interior Health

Interior Health also to start targeted vaccinations in high transmission neighbourhoods

FILE PHOTO
Second doses of COVID-19 vaccine will be available, as AstraZeneca supply runs low: Interior Health

Province expecting large volumes of Pfizer BioNTech as age-based cohort immunization program ramps up

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

People pass the red hearts on the COVID-19 Memorial Wall mourning those who have died, opposite the Houses of Parliament on the Embankment in London, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. On May 3, the British government announced that only one person had died of COVID-19 in the previous 24 hours. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kirsty Wigglesworth
For a view of a COVID-19 future, Canadians should look across the pond

Britain, like Canada, is one of the only countries in the world to delay second doses for several months

Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid (97) celebrates his 100th point this season with Leon Draisaitl (29) against the Vancouver Canucks during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, May 8, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Edmonton superstar McDavid hits 100-point mark as Oilers edge Canucks 4-3

NHL scoring leader needs just 53 games to reach century mark

Nuns of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, carry some of her relics during a vigil of prayer in preparation for the canonization of Mother Teresa in the St. John in Latheran Basilica at the Vatican, Friday, Sept. 2, 2016. In which city did she do much of her charitable work? (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
QUIZ: How much do you know about these motherhood issues?

In honour of Mother’s Day, take this 10-question quiz

A map showing where the most number of cases were recorded from April 23 to 29. This map, revealing a breakdown of infections by neighborhood, was pulled from a data package leaked to the Vancouver Sun last week (and independently verified).
36 Abbotsford schools flagged for COVID-19 exposures in the last 2 weeks, shattering record

Clearbrook Elementary recorded an ‘exposure’ on all 11 school days

Canada’s chief public health officer is reminding Canadians even those who are fully vaccinated are not immune from transmitting the COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns full vaccination does not equal full protection from COVID-19

Post-inoculation, Theresa Tam says the risk of asymptomatic infection and transmission is far lower but not obsolete

Most Read