Vaccinations cancelled in Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph but Pfizer says 'no delays' of vaccine

Monday’s COVID-19 vaccine appointments were cancelled in the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph health region. The health unit said shipments were delayed, but Pfizer says all shipments are on schedule. There remains confusion over when doses will arrive this week.

Pfizer says 'no delays to any shipments' and vaccine expected on Tuesday

Vaccinations are delayed in Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph. (Luca Bruno/The Associated Press)

Monday's COVID-19 vaccine appointments were cancelled in Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph (WDG). A news release from WDG Public Health said the delays were due to a shipment issue with drug maker Pfizer, but the company says it has changed nothing in its delivery schedule.

The health unit said it had to cancel and reschedule 500 vaccination appointments for staff in long-term care and retirement homes as a result.

"This is obviously a disappointment," said Dr. Nicola Mercer, medical officer of health, in a statement.

"While we can all recognize this is a complex logistical challenge, I share the frustration of everyone in the region at this delay."

The health unit said it was informed Monday morning of a shipment delay. 

After issuing a news release about the situation, Mercer said Pfizer reached out once again and indicated the shipment would be delivered by end of day Wednesday. However, Mercer told CBC News she still does not have a delivery date confirmed in writing. 

But Pfizer Canada described the situation differently. In a statement, a spokesperson said the company is not aware of any shipment delays, and that all shipments are expected to arrive "according to scheduled delivery timelines."

"It appears that [the health unit's] information came from the Ontario Ministry of Health, which shared that their shipments were expected in the week of January 4, 2021, but no specific dates were provided," said Christina Antoniou, who is with corporate affairs for Pfizer Canada.

"We are disappointed in the confusion this has caused, and continue to work very closely with the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Federal Government's National Operations Centre on the distribution of the vaccine across Canada."

Pfizer expects the shipment to WDG Public Health to arrive Tuesday, Antoniou said.

Health unit prepping for months

The health unit had expected to receive hundreds of doses of the vaccine Monday. A limited number of staff were expected to be vaccinated Monday with full vaccinations beginning Tuesday. 

Based on the expectation that the Pfizer delivery will arrive Wednesday, Mercer said appointments scheduled for Thursday and Friday remain in place. 

Mercer said officials have been preparing for the arrival of a vaccine for months and have purchased freezers and equipment.

The first vaccinations were to be done at a health care facility at 160 Chancellors Way in Guelph. Mercer said other vaccination locations may become available as the region continues to receive more vaccines.

Mercer said she expects delivery timelines will improve as time goes by, but that in the short-term the health unit may be more conservative in scheduling appointments to avoid having to cancel them.