TORONTO (AP) — Canada will start getting Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines from the United States next week, a company spokesperson said Friday, in what will be the first time the U.S. has allowed that company's vaccine exported to Canada.
Despite Canada's tightly woven commercial ties with the U.S., it has been getting Pfizer’s vaccines from Belgium until now because U.S. authorities had kept supplies made in the U.S. for domestic use.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau repeated Friday that starting next week, Canada will be receiving 2 million doses a week from Pfizer alone.
Vaccinations have ramped up in Canada in recent months. Every adult in Quebec will be eligible to make a vaccine appointment on May 14 and in Ontario, Canada’s largest province, every adult can book an appointment starting May 24.
Trade-dependent Canada previously lagged on vaccinating its population of 38 million because it lacks the facilities to manufacture the vaccine itself.
Pfizer has delivered almost 160 million doses to the U.S. from its Kalamazoo, Michigan, plant and that's expected to be 200 million by the end of May.
Trudeau’s government bet on seven different vaccines manufactured elsewhere and secured advance purchase agreements — enough to get 10 doses for each Canadian.. Regulators have approved the Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.
But initial supply chain difficulties forced Canada to extend the time between the first shot and the second by up to four months so that everyone can be protected faster with the primary dose. The hope is to get all adults at least one shot by the end of June.
Plans to distribute the first 300,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine in Canada next week, meanwhile, are on hold after Health Canada learned part of them were manufactured at a Maryland facility where the FDA uncovered manufacturing violations. The Emergent BioSciences factory in Baltimore had been hired to help brew the vaccine there.
Health Canada said the drug substance that makes up part of the J&J vaccine was actually produced there and then shipped elsewhere for the vaccines to be finished. Health Canada says it is seeking information from the FDA and J&J’s pharmaceutical arm, Janssen, to determine if the 300,000 doses shipped to Canada meet required safety standards. The J&J vaccine has not been used in Canada so far. The doses arrived in Canada on Wednesday.