Canada keeps end-September COVID vaccination target despite Pfizer delay

FILE PHOTO: Crescent Street, a street known for its nightlife, is seen on the first night after a curfew is imposed by the Quebec government to help slow the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Montreal, Quebec, Canada January 9, 2021. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Pfizer’s reduction of its COVID-19 vaccine shipments will not delay Canada’s goal of getting most people inoculated by the end of September, the country’s procurement minister said on Friday as the country battled a second surge in infections.

“This is a temporary delay and we remain on track to have enough approved vaccines for everyone who wishes to get vaccinated by the end of September 2021,” Procurement Minister Anita Anand said.

Pfizer said it would slow production in late January and early February due to changes to manufacturing processes aimed at boosting production, but would provide a “significant increase” in doses in late February and March.

Canada’s Major-General Dany Fortin, who is in charge of coordinating the country’s vaccine rollout, told reporters Canada will receive about half the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine over the next four weeks than had been previously expected.

However, Pfizer/BioNTech will “offset” the shortfall and still deliver - as had been planned - some 4 million by the end of March, he said.

“I understand the disappointment. I share the disappointment,” Fortin said, echoing the frustration expressed by many Canadians about the slow pace of inoculations, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau earlier this month.

Canada is struggling to contain a second wave of the novel coronavirus. On Friday, the health ministry said there could be a spike of more than 100,000 new cases in just the next nine days. That means almost 12,000 new cases per day, compared with the 7,565 new cases reported on Thursday.

The spike in cases is being driven mainly by the populous provinces of Ontario and Quebec, health officials said, both of which have imposed health restrictions in recent weeks to try to slow the spread.

Reporting by David Ljunggren and Steve Scherer, additional reporting by Allison Martell; Editing by Alexander Smith, Peter Graff and David Gregorio