A setback today (January 15) to Alberta's vaccine roll-out plan as Pfizer indicated to the federal government that there will be a temporary delay to vaccine shipments due to expansion plans at their European facility.
Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro says Pfizer is retooling one of their production lines in order to increase production from 1.3 billion to two billion doses. Pfizer will temporarily reduce vaccine shipments to all countries that are receiving them from the European facility, including Canada. Shandro says this reduction in supply could see deliveries to all countries being served by that facility reduced in the coming weeks.
"Shipments are expected to continue in the coming weeks but the number of doses will be fewer, we are advised," Shandro says.
By the end of March Pfizer believes they will be able to restore supply so Alberta can still be on track to receive all the committed doses in the first quarter of the calendar year.
He says delays of this type, while unfortunate, are possible when global supply chains are stretched. Next week the vaccine Canada receives will be reduced by 20 percent and reduced by 80 percent the week following. For the next two weeks, only half of the expected doses will enter Canada. Shandro says the province is awaiting word from Ottawa on how this shortage will affect Alberta's allocation of the vaccine.
This means it will take longer to complete immunization of priority health care workers who are part of Phase One and will delay the ability to immunize all seniors over the age of 75 and all indigenous seniors over the age of 65. Shandro says the work will continue to make sure Alberta is ready when more vaccine arrives but it means that more people will be on standby and waiting to be immunized.
Health officials will continue to give out the vaccine Alberta does have with the focus being on residents and staff in long-term care and designated supportive living throughout the province. Shandro expects to have those shots done by Monday. He also says health care workers will continue to be vaccinated as quickly as possible.