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

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools is preparing a rapid response team proposal for submission to the B.C. Ministry of Education. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district chosen to field COVID-19 rapid response team

Team to consist of SD68 and Island Health staff, according to B.C. Ministry of Education

A 50-year-old man was stabbed in an altercation that started with a disagreement about physical distancing. (File photo)
Argument about physical distancing leads to stabbing in Nanaimo

Suspect arrested on Gabriola Island an hour after incident Wednesday, Feb. 24

The Gabriola Environmentally Responsible Trans-Island Express fleet will be able to move to a new depot facility after receiving more than $187,000 of community economic recovery infrastructure program money from the Province of B.C. (Submitted photo)
Gabriola bus system receives $188,000 from province for depot building

Old fire hall to be retrofitted and serve as new bus terminal thanks to COVID-19 recovery funding

Nanaimo-raised singer Allison Crowe with director Zack Snyder on the set of ‘Man of Steel’ in 2011. Crowe performs a cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah in the upcoming director’s cut of ‘Justice League.’ (Photo courtesy Clay Enos)
Nanaimo-raised singer records song for upcoming ‘Justice League’ film

Allison Crowe’s rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah closes out the movie

Submissions are open for Vancouver Island Regional Library’s new online arts and literature magazine, ‘Sea and Cedar.’ (Bulletin file photo)
Submissions sought for library’s new digital arts and literature publication

‘Sea and Cedar’ magazine an initiative of Nanaimo Harbourfront Library

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
B.C. reports 10 additional deaths, 395 new COVID-19 cases

The majority of new coronavirus infections were in the Fraser Health region

A new survey has found that virtual visits are British Columbian’s preferred way to see the doctor amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Unsplash)
Majority of British Columbians now prefer routine virtual doctor’s visits: study

More than 82% feel virtual health options reduce wait times, 64% think they lead to better health

Captain and Maria, a pair of big and affectionate akbash dogs, must be adopted together because they are so closely bonded. (SPCA image)
Shuswap SPCA seeks forever home for inseparable Akbash dogs

A fundraiser to help medical expenses for Captain and Maria earned over 10 times its goal

The missing camper heard a GSAR helicopter, and ran from his tree well waving his arms. File photo
Man trapped on Manning mountain did nearly everything right to survive: SAR

The winter experienced camper was overwhelmed by snow conditions

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen, all 20, drown in the Sooke River in February 2020. (Contributed photos)
Coroner confirms ‘puddle jumping’ in 2020 drowning deaths of 3 B.C. men

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen pulled into raging river driving through nearby flooding

Castlegar doctor Megan Taylor contracted COVID-19 in November. This photo was taken before the pandemic. Photo: Submitted
Kootenay doctor shares experience contracting COVID-19

Castlegar doctor shares her COVID experience

Ashley Paxman, 29, is in the ICU after being struck by a vehicle along Highway 97 Feb. 18, 2021. She remains in critical condition. (GoFundMe)
Okanagan woman in ICU with broken bones in face after being struck by car

She remains in serious condition following Feb. 18 incident

Vancouver International Women in Film Festival kicks off March 5.
Women in Film Festival features two B.C. filmmakers

The 16th annual festival kicks off March 5, 2021

The booklet roots present day activism in the history of racist policies, arguing the history must be acknowledged in order to change. (CCPA)
New resource dives into 150 years of racist policy in B.C.

Racist history must be acknowledged in order to change, authors say

Most Read