The prime minister on Friday sought to quell angst over delays in vaccine delivery while British Columbia extended restrictions on gatherings to stem the spread of new, more transmissible variants of the COVID-19 virus.
Justin Trudeau said his government knew all along that short-term delays in vaccine shipments would be possible and planned accordingly.
“But I hear it from all Canadians right now: people are worried. People are tired of this pandemic,” he said. “They want to know when this winter’s going to be over. They want to know when they can go back to everything they’ve done before. They want to know mostly when their grandparents are going to be safe, when the vaccines are going to come.
“That’s why there’s a lot of anxiety and a lot of noise going on right now.”
Shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, one of two approved in Canada, have slowed as a plant in Belgium is retooled to eventually churn out more doses. Canada is getting about one-fifth of previously planned shipments this week and next.
This week’s shipment of the Moderna vaccine had 50,000 doses less than previously expected due to production delays in Switzerland. The company has signaled the next shipment in three weeks will also not be as big as initially planned.
But Trudeau said Canada is “very much on track” to receive a total of six million doses of vaccine by the end of March, as planned.
He reiterated that all Canadians who want to receive a vaccine will be able to do so by September.
“I speak almost every week with the CEOs of these vaccine companies and they have assured me that they will meet … their contractual obligations,” Trudeau said.
He sidestepped a question on whether vaccine manufacturers would be penalized if they failed to follow through on their commitments.
In B.C., provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said a “hard push” is needed now to protect people from the new strains. The province recorded 10 new cases of variants first detected in the United Kingdom and South Africa.
Restrictions on gatherings that were to have expired at midnight have been extended indefinitely.
“We need to buy some time to understand if the positive things we are seeing are going to allow us to take away from the restrictions we have in place now,” Henry said. “And we don’t yet know that.”
Alberta, which has a reopening plan tied largely to hospitalization numbers, is set to loosen public health orders for school sports, fitness centres and bars and restaurants on Monday.There were 475 people in hospital with COVID-19 on Friday and 10 new cases of variants were reported.
Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press