Canada will have received 6.4 million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines by the end of June, a government official says.
Yet the government official told Global News there is some uncertainty that all of those doses will in fact be delivered.
For the current quarter ending on June 30, the official said Canada can expect to see 1.6 million AstraZeneca doses through the U.N.-backed initiative known as the COVAX facility. Those doses are manufactured in South Korea and “finished” in a European location.
Another 1 million doses will come from AstraZeneca manufacturing facilities in the United States.
‘Demand is outstripping the supply’: Is Canada running out of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines?
The figure also takes into account 2.3 million doses of the vaccine that arrived in Canada between January and March, 300,000 of which came from the COVAX facility in the second quarter.
Canada was supposed to receive another 1.5 million AstraZeneca doses made by the Serum Institute in India, but government officials say Canada will not be “pushing” for those Serum Institute exports as India’s COVID-19 crisis deepens.
India is bracing for some “horrible” weeks as COVID-19 infections and deaths continue to climb at alarming record-speed. According to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University, India’s confirmed cases shot past 20.2 million on Tuesday, while the number of deaths stood at 222,408.
Strain is mounting on the Serum Institute, which in addition to being India’s main supplier is also a critical COVAX supplier, which more than 90 countries are depending on, and supplies Canada with its CoviShield vaccines. The institute paused exports in March in a bid to help India’s government ramp up its vaccine campaign by opening vaccinations to all adults in the country.
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Serum has indicated it may be able to resume exports in June. But in the meantime, Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand said she is pushing AstraZeneca to accelerate deliveries from the U.S. to Canada.
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For now, the news of 6.4 million AstraZeneca vaccines comes as a sigh of relief for the 1,177,205 Canadians who have been administered just one dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine so far, and will eventually need their second shot.
An additional 493,544 Canadians have only received one dose of the CoviShield version of the AstraZeneca vaccine from India.
In the meantime, Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said Tuesday that Health Canada is “very closely” watching emerging data around the safety and efficacy of mixing different vaccines in a two-dose regimen.
Tam said the hope is “further clarification” will be available well before those Canadians awaiting a second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine are due to roll up their sleeves again.
That time is fast approaching. Canadians began receiving AstraZeneca doses in mid-March, and AstraZeneca recommends four to 12 weeks between doses.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) has said the gap between doses can be extended up to 16 weeks.
Supply running low
Provinces haven’t received shipments of AstraZeneca since early April, according to available provincial data.
Data from British Columbia shows the province is close to administering all the AstraZeneca doses it has received to date. Ontario said in mid-April that it had less than 340,000 doses of AstraZeneca left to administer.
The AstraZeneca vaccine has been cleared by the NACI for Canadians aged 30 and up.
Yet some provinces like British Columbia that have lowered the age limit to 30 have had to pause booking appointments as they wait for more deliveries. Other provinces like Ontario and Alberta have resisted lowering the age limit, citing supply concerns.
Even other provinces like Quebec and New Brunswick, which have kept their age limit for AstraZeneca at 45 and 55 respectively, have warned that all doses set aside for pharmacy appointments have been spoken for.
Experts have told Global News that demand for the AstraZeneca shot is outstripping the supply.
“I know there are lots of people in the 30 to 40 cohort who think, ‘OK, now I’m going to get it,’ but then the provinces get blamed for saying, ‘We just can’t do it,’” Kerry Bowman, a professor of bioethics and global health at the University of Toronto, said in an earlier interview.
“So it adds to confusion and it’s very poor timing. … (The) NACI must have had insight that the supply chain for AstraZeneca is limited.”
— With files from Global News’ David Akin, Abigail Bimman, Rachael D’Amore, Katie Dangerfield, the Canadian Press and the Associated Press
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