Explainer: How Canada will vaccinate its population against COVID-19

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada on Wednesday approved the first COVID-19 vaccine, jointly developed by Pfizer Inc and its German partner BioNTech SE, and is now preparing to distribute early doses to the most vulnerable groups.

Managing the nationwide rollout will be one of the most complex logistical undertakings in the country’s history, officials say.


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told the House of Commons on Wednesday that Canada would receive 30,000 doses next week and up to 249,000 by the end of the year.

Only a handful of provinces have so far detailed their immediate plans. Saskatchewan said it expected to receive Pfizer vaccine for 1,950 people by Tuesday, and would use it to inoculate healthcare workers caring directly for COVID-19 patients. Neighboring Manitoba said it expected enough Pfizer vaccine next week to immunize 900 healthcare workers.

General immunization for all 38 million Canadians will begin in April 2021 with a goal of 100% coverage by the end of the third quarter, Health Canada said in a document.


Officials say priority groups such as healthcare workers, employees in long-term care homes, vulnerable members of the elderly population and those living in remote Indigenous communities will receive vaccines first.


Provincial orders for vaccines will be coordinated through a national operations center with help from the military.

Pfizer’s ultra-low temperature vaccine will be transported by the manufacturer directly to the 14 points of inoculation that Ottawa has set up across the country.

The federal government has contracted FedEx Corp and Innomar Strategies, a Canada-based division of AmerisourceBergen to provide logistical support on vaccine delivery.

Frozen vaccines, like Moderna’s, will be transported by federally contracted logistics service providers from where they are manufactured to set points of delivery.

Canada is now running distribution drills to ensure that critical capability gaps are filled, risks are mitigated, and contingencies are put in place.


Canadian officials say the next regulatory decision will be on Moderna Inc’s candidate vaccine. Canada also has agreements to purchase the potential vaccines of Novavax Inc, Johnson & Johnson, Sanofi SA with GlaxoSmithKline Plc, AstraZeneca Plc, and Medicago.

If all were to receive regulatory approval, Canada could buy enough doses to vaccinate the country more than five times over.

Canada expects the first 6 million doses from Pfizer and Moderna Inc to arrive in the first quarter of 2021, enough for 3 million of the 38 million population.


Health authorities in the provinces and territories are responsible for determining how vaccines will be deployed and on administering them to their populations. Inoculation will be free.

Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, has also set up a task force headed by Canada’s former Chief of the Defence Staff Rick Hillier.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren and Julie Gordon in Ottawa and Rod Nickel in Manitoba; Editing by Steve Scherer, Diane Craft and Denny Thomas)

U.S. could have capacity of 3 million COVID-19 tests per day, HHS official says

(Reuters) – The United States could have a capacity of 3 million coronavirus tests per day this month, and scale up to a high of as much as 135 million tests a month by October, a top health official told a U.S. Congress panel on Wednesday.

Half of the three million tests would be rapid point-of-care tests, said Admiral Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The average turnaround time for lab-based tests was now about 1.5 days on average, Giroir told the U.S. Senate panel.

Officials also stressed that coronavirus vaccines would not be immediately available to the broader public after regulatory clearance.

It would take around 6 to 9 months for enough people to be vaccinated for effective immunization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield said.

(Reporting by Manas Mishra in Bengaluru and Carl O’ Donnell in New York; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli and Shounak Dasgupta)

Delivering super-cooled COVID-19 vaccine a daunting challenge for some countries

By Matthias Inverardi and Ludwig Burger

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Getting a coronavirus vaccine from manufacturing sites to some parts of the world with rural populations and unreliable electricity supply will be an immense challenge, given the need to store some vials at temperatures as low as minus 80 degrees Celsius (-112 Fahrenheit), Deutsche Post warned on Tuesday.

The German logistics firm said that distribution of an eventual vaccine across large parts of Africa, South America and Asia would require extraordinary measures to keep deliveries of so-called mRNA vaccines refrigerated at Antarctic-level temperatures.

Companies developing vaccines requiring exceptional cold storage, such as Moderna and CureVac, are working hard to make their injections last longer in transit.

The novel class of mRNA vaccines is among the furthest advanced in a field of 33 immunization shots currently being tested on humans globally, but they may need to be cooled at minus 80 degrees Celsius.

But upgrading cold storage infrastructure in regions outside the 25 most advanced countries, home to one third of the global population, will pose an immense challenge, said Deutsche Post in its study, conducted with consultancy firm McKinsey.

Vaccine developers Translate Bio and Moderna said in June they are working to produce evidence in time for the roll-out that their respective products can be shipped and stored at less extreme temperatures.

A spokesman for CureVac said its vaccine candidate is based on an experimental rabies vaccine which has already been shown to keep its molecular structure when stored in a regular fridge for months. Tests are underway to show the COVID-19 product has the same durability and the company is confident the data will be “competitive”, he added.

Deutsche Post said that even if the vaccine cold chain requires temperatures of only minus 8 degrees Celsius the share of the world’s population with reliable access to it increases only to about 70%, with substantial parts of Africa at risk of missing out.

“We anticipate 10 billion vaccine doses will have to be distributed across the world, and that includes regions that don’t have motorway access every five miles,” Katja Busch, Chief Commercial Officer of Deutsche Post’s DHL global forwarding unit, told Reuters.

(Additional reporting by Lisa Baertlein, editing by Louise Heavens)

Philippines says anti-dengue vaccine may be connected to three deaths

Dr. Rolando Enrique Domingo (R), Undersecretary of the Department of Health (DOH), with Dr. Gerardo Legaspi, Director of the Philippine General Hospital (PGH), answer questions during a news conference at the DOH headquarter in metro Manila, Philippines February 2, 2018.

By Manuel Mogato

MANILA (Reuters) – The Philippines said on Friday the anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia may be connected to three deaths in the country, according to a government-ordered inquiry, and that the drug is not ready for mass immunisation.

French drug maker Sanofi said in November that Dengvaxia – the world’s first dengue vaccine – might increase the risk of severe disease in people who had never been exposed to the virus.

The news prompted an uproar in the Philippines, where more than 800,000 school-age children had been vaccinated in 2016.

“We sympathise with all the families who have suffered the loss of a child. Sanofi Pasteur’s mission is to reduce or eliminate suffering for millions around the world through vaccination, including in the Philippines,” a spokesman for Sanofi said in an emailed statement.

“Dengue fever is one of the most pressing public health issues facing the Philippines today. Sanofi Pasteur remains committed to working with the Philippines government and all organisations to address this urgent public health challenge.”

The Philippine Health Ministry halted Dengvaxia immunisations in November. It formed a 10-member panel of experts to determine if the drug was directly connected to the deaths of 14 children after they were given the vaccine.

It found it may have been connected to the deaths of three.

“Three cases were found to have causal association. They died of dengue even (though) they were given Dengvaxia. Two of them may have died because of vaccine failure,” Health Undersecretary Enrique Domingo told a news conference.

“These findings strengthen the decision of the Department of Health to stop the vaccine. It has failed in some children. Dengvaxia is not ready for mass vaccinations and we would need three to five more years to watch and monitor if there would be other adverse reactions from the vaccine.”

Mosquito-borne dengue is the world’s fastest-growing infectious disease, afflicting up to 100 million people worldwide, causing half a million life-threatening infections and killing about 20,000 people, mostly children, each year.

Domingo said the panel’s findings would be shared with the justice department, which is considering cases against those responsible for the mass immunisation programme.

Paediatrician and panel member Juliet Sio-Aguilar, from the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital, said the team was recommending further studies as it was difficult to directly connect the three deaths to Dengvaxia.

No vaccine has a 100 percent success rate, she said. The dengue death rate in the Philippines was 60 times higher than global rate, Sio-Aguilar said.

The Philippines spent 3.5 billion pesos ($68 million) on the Dengvaxia programme to reduce the 200,000 dengue cases reported every year.

The Philippines has already fined Sanofi a symbolic $2,000, citing violations in product registration and marketing.

(Additional reporting by Ben Hirshler in London, Matthias Blamont in Paris; Editing by Nick Macfie and David Evans)