Quebec adjusting vaccine plan after Pfizer cuts supply, but will keep 90-day booster delay
MONTREAL -- A temporary production drop by Pfizer is going to hit Quebec hard, along with the rest of the country, with nearly half the province's forecasted doses between now and Feb. 8 not arriving on schedule.
A day after setting out a firmer plan and schedule for the province's vaccination campaign, Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé announced Friday night that nearly 87,000 expected doses that were supposed to be delivered in the next three weeks won't arrive on time.
On Monday, the health ministry confirmed to CTV News that it will stick with the dose timing it announced last week, allowing up to a 90-day interval before people get their boosters.
A THREE-WEEK DROP IN SUPPLY
Previously, Quebec had planned to administer 250,000 doses before Feb. 8. That goal has since been cut to 225,000, amounting to about 2.6 per cent of people in the province.
By March, the province expects to deliver 1,203,100 doses.
The goal to vaccinate everyone residing in a long-term care home by Jan. 25 still stands. On that date, the province will also begin vaccinating people in private care homes, but at a slower rate of 21,000 doses by Feb. 8.
The temporary supply drop comes after Pfizer decided to retrofit its production plant in Europe in order to be able to manufacture more of the vaccine.
It was already known that the situation would decrease Canada's overall supply by about 50 per cent in the next three weeks. However, it hadn't been announced whether all provinces would be affected equally.
The differences are stark and not evenly spread over the three weeks -- shipments will drop off severely in the middle of that period. In the second week, from Jan. 25 to Feb. 1, Quebec expected to receive nearly 47,000 doses but will instead be getting only 8,775 for the entire week.
For comparison, on the same day of the announcement, Quebec gave out 11,400 shots within the day.
BOOSTER SCHEDULE TO CONTINUE AS PLANNED
Last week, Quebec announced its plans to delay Quebecers' second or booster doses of the vaccine by up to 90 days in an effort to give as many as people as possible the first dose.
But that plan was made with much bigger dose deliveries to work with.
"This decrease in arrivals implies a revision of the objectives presented in recent days," Quebec's health ministry wrote in an update on its website on Friday.
"[Ministry] teams are actively working to establish a new dose distribution plan accordingly, according to the vaccination priorities established."
On Monday, the ministry confirmed it won't be changing its booster plan.
"In the current epidemiological context in Quebec, and since a large amount of vaccine is now expected later than expected, it is important to prioritize the immunization of as many people as possible," a ministry spokesman wrote in a statement.
"We are continuing with the strategy put in place, namely to administer a first dose to as many people as possible among the priority groups."
The province is still aiming for giving out everyone's second dose within 42 to 90 days, "based on the recommendations of our experts," he said.
"Following Pfizer’s announcement, teams are hard at work to revise planning and distribution. We will soon be able to present to you a modified timeline which takes into account this delay in deliveries."
QUEBEC GAINED MOMENTUM QUICKLY
In the last two weeks, Quebec has sharply ramped up its vaccinating capacity.
It's currently second-highest among major Canadian provinces in how much of the available supply the government is getting into people's arms (78.35 per cent of available doses), and also how many people have been vaccinated per capita (almost 1.5 people vaccinated per 100 people). Only Alberta is higher.
However, the province is still only partway through vaccinating its first-priority groups.
"In Quebec, 127,073 doses of vaccine have been administered to date, including 27,654 to CHSLD residents, which represents nearly 65% of those accommodated," the ministry wrote in its update.
"As for the nursing staff, 94,318 people were vaccinated, out of 325,000," which adds up to 29 per cent.
The remaining 5,000 or so doses were given to "family caregivers and to people living in remote or isolated communities," the province said.
The statement said that "the vaccination schedule adapts continuously with confirmation of the arrival of vaccines, in a manner consistent with respecting the established priority groups."
It said that the province can currently make projections until the end of March given the delivery information it has.