Canada began inoculating citizens with the COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech on Monday, just like the U.S. Canada approved the vaccine for emergency use this week after trials showed it to be effective and safe over the last few months. The country has ordered millions of doses to arrive in batches between now and March of 2021.
"The first batch of doses of Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine have arrived in Canada," Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted on Sunday night. He shared a photo of a cargo plane, which must have carried the vaccine from developers to the country. According to a report by Reuters, Canada received 30,000 doses of the drug to start with, which will be distributed at 14 sites across the country. Like the U.S., Canada is prioritizing its health care workers and elderly populations to receive the treatment first.
That is just the beginning. Canada will get 249,000 doses of the vaccine by the end of December, and about 4 million by March, if all goes as planned. Canada approved the vaccine for emergency use days before the U.S. did, though it took time to receive the drug from Pfizer-BioNTech's development facility in Belgium, while the U.S. got its batch from the facility in Michigan.
"The intent here is to ensure that we continue to have regular drip feed of vaccines in the coming weeks," said Canada's Major-General Dany Fortin, who is in charge of vaccine distribution for the country. He emphasized that this is "good news" on its but, but said: "our fight against COVID-19 is not over."
Canada has fared better than the U.S. during this pandemic, which public health officials say is thanks to stricter rules for social distancing and better adherence to advice like wearing masks. However, the country has seen cases on the rise, and has therefore begun imposing new stay-at-home orders again. Canada has now seen 13,431 deaths from the virus in total, including 81 on Saturday alone.
Canadian officials say they expect to approve another vaccine from Moderna Inc "reasonably soon." Pfizer's vaccine was developed in Germany, and fast-tracked thanks to promising results in its trials. The Moderna vaccine is hot on its heels, with the U.S. expecting to approve it as soon as Friday, according to a report by CNBC.
If the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves the Moderna vaccine this week, 6 million doses will be shipped relatively quickly. This would be more than double the number of doses of the Pfizer vaccine that were prepared to go, which provides a promising light at the end of the tunnel for the pandemic itself. Still, officials say the average citizen should be prepared to wait until the late spring to receive their inoculation.