Canada confident in vaccine deliveries even if U.S. blocks exports

OTTAWA/TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada is confident there will be no disruption of COVID-19 vaccine supplies even if the United States blocks their export because vaccines are manufactured in several countries, a government official said on Tuesday.

A vial of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is seen ahead of being administered at the Royal Victoria Hospital, on the first day of the largest immunization program in the British history, in Belfast, Northern Ireland December 8, 2020. Liam McBurney/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

U.S. President Donald Trump issued an executive order to ensure Americans are first in line for domestically produced coronavirus vaccines.

That raised questions about availability of the vaccines being jointly developed by Pfizer Inc and German partner BionNTech SE, first in line for regulatory approval in Canada.

Dominic LeBlanc, minister of intergovernmental affairs, said Canada was confident Pfizer and other companies obligated to deliver vaccine doses to Canada will meet those obligations.

He said Canada’s purchases are not tied to any one manufacturing site, and noted Pfizer manufactures in Europe as well as the United States.

Pfizer Canada spokeswoman Christina Antoniou said the company is committed to honoring agreements with Canada. “We are a global company that prioritizes patients all over the world,”

she said in response to a question about Trump’s executive order.

Canada is expected to receive up to 249,000 doses of Pfizer’s shots this month.

Quebec plans to start inoculating residents and staff next week at two long-term care facilities.

Residents in long-term care facilities accounted for most of Quebec’s deaths during the first wave.

Maimonides, one of the two care homes, has installed freezers and expects two boxes of doses, said Francine Dupuis, associate chief executive of an integrated health network serving West-Central Montreal.

“We have practiced, we have worked for a number of days to get ready, to have all the logistics in place,” Dupuis said.

Canada has reported 423,000 infections and nearly 13,000 deaths from the pandemic, as the second wave sets record-high cases this winter.

Alberta, which has the highest provincial rate of active cases, said it would close gyms and casinos, and halt dining inside restaurants as of Sunday.

Premier Jason Kenney, who had resisted other provinces’ stricter measures, said Alberta needed to slow a surge in hospitalizations and deaths.

Manitoba extended its strict public health restrictions to early January.

Britons on Tuesday become the first to receive the Pfizer vaccine outside of clinical trials.

Reporting by Steve Scherer in Ottawa and Allison Martell in Toronto Additional reporting by Allison Lampert in Montreal, Julie Gordon in Ottawa and Rod Nickel in Winnipeg; Editing by Bill Berkrot, Jonathan Oatis, David Gregorio and Tom Brown