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

Williams Lake First Nation provides a community COVID-19 update Friday, Jan. 15. (Williams Lake First Nation Facebook image)
Williams Lake First Nation Chief highlights importance of mental health amid COVID-19 outbreak

A time to be forgiving, sincere and loving, says Willie Sellars

Interior Health confirmed Friday, Jan. 15, there are now six staff members who have tested positive for COVID-19 at Cariboo Memorial Hospital. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
UPDATE: Six Cariboo Memorial Hospital staff members test positive for COVID-19

Interior Health said Friday, Jan. 15 testing is ongoing

Interior Health update. File photo.
86 new COVID-19 cases, two more deaths in Interior Health

The new deaths are from Heritage Square, a long-term care facility in Vernon

The worker who tested positive was en route to the Mine Site near Wells. (BGM Map)
Wells mining company detects second positive COVID-19 case of 2021

The employee, who is asympomatic, had no known contact with Wells or Quesnel

Cale Murdock, 23, has been training with the Williams Lake Blue Fins and is hoping for an opportunity to compete at the Canadian Olympic Trials in April in Toronto, depending on whether they still take place due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Greg Sabatino photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Blue Fins swimmer Cale Murdock preparing for Canadian Olympic Trials in April

Cale Murdock was selected as one of the top 20 swimmers in the country in his events to attend

Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the press theatre at the B.C. legislature for an update on COVID-19, Jan. 7, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 spread steady with 509 new cases Friday

Hospitalized and critical care cases decline, nine deaths

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials say country will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon shared a handwritten note his son received on Jan. 13, 2021. (Ravi Kahlon/Twitter)
Proud dad moment: B.C. minister’s son, 10, receives handwritten note for act of kindness

North Delta MLA took to Twitter to share a letter his son received from a new kid at school

Lilly and Poppy, two cats owned by Kalmar Cat Hotel ownder Donna Goodenough, both have cerebellAr hypoplasia, a genetic neurological condition that affects their ability to control their muscles and bones. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror
VIDEO: Wobbly Cats a riot of flailing legs and paws but bundles of love and joy to their owner

Woman urges others to not fear adopting cats with disabilities

A COVID-19 outbreak at Vernon's Heritage Square long-term care home has claimed seven people. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Two more COVID-19 deaths at Vernon care home

Heritage Square has now lost seven people due to the outbreak

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s top doctor says to avoid non-essential travel as B.C. explores legal options

Premier John Horgan says he is seeking legal advice on whether it can limit interprovincial travel

Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the crowd during the march on Washington, D.C., in August of 1963. Courtesy photo
Government reinforces importance of anti-racism act on Black Shirt Day

B.C. Ministers say education “a powerful tool” in the fight for equity and equality