AstraZeneca’s vaccines are ready for use at the vaccination center in Apolda, Germany, Sunday, Feb.28, 2021. (Michael Reichel/dpa via AP)

AstraZeneca’s vaccines are ready for use at the vaccination center in Apolda, Germany, Sunday, Feb.28, 2021. (Michael Reichel/dpa via AP)

Feds hoping for AstraZeneca shots this week as Pfizer-BioNTech prepare next delivery

The first of those doses could start to arrive in Canada as early as Wednesday

The federal government hopes to start receiving doses of AstraZeneca’s recently approved COVID-19 vaccine this week as the flood of shots that flowed into Canada from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna last week partially subsides.

Health Canada announced on Friday that it had approved the AstraZeneca vaccine, the third COVID-19 shot to have received regulatory approval since the start of the pandemic.

Canada has ordered 24 million doses of the vaccine, with the majority to be delivered from the United States between April and September.

But two million jabs have been ordered from the Serum Institute of India, and Verity Pharmaceuticals, which is facilitating the institute’s application in Canada, has said the first 500,000 would reach Canadian shores this week.

A senior government official told The Canadian Press on background Sunday that the first of those doses could start to arrive in Canada as early as Wednesday, though the shipment has not been confirmed.

Dr. Supriya Sharma, the chief medical adviser at Health Canada, also told the CBC on Sunday that the regulator had received additional information over the weekend from Johnson and Johnson, which is seeking approval for its own vaccine. Regulators in the U.S. gave it the green light over the weekend.

Sharma said Health Canada is hoping to approve Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine in “the next couple of weeks,” but added any decision is contingent on the information presented by the company.

As it stands now, the Public Health Agency of Canada is currently only expecting delivery of about 445,000 vaccine doses this week, which is about 200,000 less than last week’s record high of 640,000 doses in a seven-day period.

The confirmed doses are all coming from Pfizer-BioNTech, as the two companies settle into a rhythm following a month-long delivery lull in January and much of February due to production upgrades in Europe. The pharmaceutical giants have pledged to deliver 4 million doses by the end of March.

Canada received 168,000 doses of Moderna’s vaccine last week, but the company only delivers every three weeks.

Clinical trials showed the AstraZeneca vaccine to be less effective at preventing infection than the other two, but it is still keeping people from getting very sick or dying, Sharma said Friday.

Pfizer and Moderna both reported their products were 95 per cent effective in preventing COVID-19 infections in immunized patients compared to those who received a placebo. Efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine is believed to be around 62 per cent.

It’s not entirely clear yet how provinces and territories will incorporate the AstraZeneca vaccine into their inoculation efforts, but the product offers a more flexible option since shots can be shipped and stored in refrigerators rather than freezers.

READ MORE: B.C. officials to unveil new details of COVID vaccination plan Monday

AstraZeneca vaccines are to be given in two doses between four and 12 weeks apart. Sharma said there is some indication that waiting longer for a follow-up jab leads to a better response, but that data is not yet complete.

There have been some concerns raised about the AstraZeneca vaccine in recent weeks, including its effectiveness against virus variants of concern and whether there is enough data to show it works on older recipients.

Several European countries, including Germany and France, limited AstraZeneca’s vaccine to residents under the age of 65.

Sharma said there were a limited number of people over 65 involved in the clinical trials, but that data, coupled with the real-world experience in the United Kingdom, shows strong evidence seniors are protected.

Canada’s vaccine program is ramping up after the lengthy slowdown in deliveries.

More than 300,000 people were vaccinated in the last week, almost one-fifth of the total doses injected since the first immunizations began Dec. 14.

About 700,000 people had received one dose as of Friday afternoon, and more than 500,000 are now fully vaccinated with two doses.

Quebec is set to expand its vaccination effort to the general public on Monday by allowing seniors 85 or older to begin booking appointments. The age threshold has been lowered to 80 for seniors in the Montreal area.

The AstraZeneca vaccine works differently than the other two already in use in Canada.

Both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna use messenger RNA technology, using RNA encoded with the piece of the SARS-CoV-2 virus known as the spike protein. The mRNA trains the body to fight off a COVID-19 infection.

AstraZeneca is a viral vector vaccine, which takes a cold virus, modifies it so it can’t reproduce itself, and adds the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. When injected, it too provokes the body to develop infection-fighting antibodies and cells to combat the virus.

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirusvaccines

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Asymptomatic testing will now be available for "priority groups" who are most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable or at-risk populations. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS
Alberta identifies 1,183 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday

50.5% of all active cases are variants of concern

File photo
A man walks into a Cargill meat processing factory. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Alberta meat plant, site of COVID-19 outbreak last year, to get vaccination clinics

Nearly half of the 2,200 workers at the Cargill facility contracted the novel coronavirus and two employees died last April

Grand Chief Wilton Littlechild, left, Grand Chief Arthur Noskey, centre and Chief Aaron Young during a meeting with First Nations Chiefs and Grand Chiefs in Edmonton. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta must retract Forest Act before it becomes law: Treaty 8 grand chief

‘We are asking (the government) to pull this back and consult with us,’ says Arthur Noskey of Treaty 8 First Nations

Alberta’s largest school board says it will not use the United Conservative government’s draft elementary school curriculum pilot this fall. (Ben Hohenstatt/Juneau Empire)
Calgary school board says no to United Conservative draft school curriculum

Other school boards including Edmonton Public, Edmonton Catholic, Elk Island Public, Wild Rose, Medicine Hat Public, Medicine Hat Catholic and Lethbridge Public have also rejected it

A cross made out of hockey sticks at a makeshift memorial is silhouetted against the setting sun at the intersection of a fatal bus crash near Tisdale, Sask., on Monday, April, 9, 2018. A virtual tribute is planned to mark the third anniversary of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
VIDEO: Humboldt Broncos team to be honoured on third anniversary of fatal bus crash

16 people died and 13 were injured when a semi-trailer ran a stop sign into the path of the hockey team’s bus

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a technical briefing on the COVID pandemic in Canada, Friday, January 15, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s ICUs see near-record of COVID-19 patients last week as variant cases double

Last week, Canadian hospitals treated an average of 2,500 patients with COVID-19, daily, up 7% from the previous week

Vancouver’s park board general manager issued a new order Friday restricting tents and other temporary structures from being set up in Strathcona Park after April 30, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver park board issues order to restrict tents in Strathcona Park

The order issued Friday restricted tents and other temporary structures from being set up after April 30

Stettler’s own Renegade Station is kicking off the spring season with a brand new single - to be released April 9th. (Photo submitted)
A brand new single is on the way from Stettler-based band Renegade Station

Free Free Free hits all streaming platforms on April 9th

Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau waits for a virtual meeting to begin with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Ottawa, Friday February 26, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Ottawa mulls exempting more workers from Canada-U.S. border shutdown: Garneau

Canada-U.S. border has been closed to people travelling for vacations and other non-essential visits since March 2020

A worker smooths concrete at a construction site in Toronto on January 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston
Economy adds 303,000 jobs in March, unemployment rate falls: Statistics Canada

Figure released this morning outpaced the 259,000 gain seen in February

FILE - This file photo dated July 10, 1947 shows the official photograph of Britain’s Princess Elizabeth and her fiance, Lieut. Philip Mountbatten in London. Buckingham Palace says Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II, has died aged 99. (AP Photo/File)
Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II, dies at 99

Philip spent a month in hospital earlier this year before being released on March 16

Campbell River city council will continue its 2020 policy of waiving late fees and NSFs. (Mirror File photo)
53% of Canadians teetering the brink of insolvency: survey

A majority of Canadians admit they’re just $200 away from not being able to pay their monthly bills

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney listens as the 2021 budget is delivered in Edmonton Alta, on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Kenney faces criticism from doctors, his own caucus, over new COVID-19 health rules

Alberta now has more than 10,000 active cases, about 43 per cent are variants

Most Read