Manitoba

Manitoba pauses new COVID-19 vaccine appointments amid Pfizer supply slowdown

Canada's procurement minister was informed Thursday night that Pfizer, the pharmaceutical giant that partnered to make the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, will be sending fewer doses because it's pausing some production lines in Belgium.

Slowdown to 'significantly scale back' operations of Brandon supersite when it opens Jan. 18, province says

Appointments that have already been booked will go ahead as scheduled, said Dr. Joss Reimer, the lead of Manitoba's COVID-19 vaccine task force. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

The Manitoba government is holding off on booking new COVID-19 vaccine appointments, as Pfizer is temporarily reducing the number of vaccine doses shipped to Canada.

Anita Anand, Canada's public services and procurement minister, was informed Thursday night that Pfizer, the American pharmaceutical giant that partnered to make the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, will send fewer doses because it's pausing some production lines at its facility in Puurs, Belgium.

The aim is to expand manufacturing capacity in the long term, Anand said.

Dr. Joss Reimer, the medical lead of Manitoba's COVID-19 vaccine taskforce, announced via Twitter that new immunization appointments will not be made for the time being due to the potential supply disruptions.

"We anticipated these issues and have contingency plans in place," Reimer said on Twitter.

"Once we hear more from our vaccination partners, we will update Manitobans. Our immunization plan is to safely and responsibly vaccinate as many Manitobans as possible with the doses we've been given."

Appointments that have already been booked will go ahead as scheduled, Reimer said.

The supply disruptions may last about two or three weeks, said Anand.

But Canada's allotment of Pzifer-BioNtech vaccine doses will drop by half for four weeks, said Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the military commander in charge of federal vaccine logistics.

The Manitoba government is waiting to hear from the feds on how the supply slowdown will affect the province.

The slowdown will "significantly scale back operations" of the immunization supersite in Brandon, Man., when it opens Monday, and the supersite in Thompson, Man., won't open on schedule, the province said in a news release Friday night. The Thompson Vaxport, which will serve northern Manitoba, was supposed to open Feb. 1.

The province's plan to immunize all personal care home residents by Feb. 8 is unaffected, though, the release said. 

When the provincial government learns more, that information will be shared with Manitobans, the province said in an online update earlier Friday.

Manitoba has administered 13,539 doses of vaccine as of Friday, the province said in its latest vaccination bulletin: 11,401 first doses and 2,138 second doses.

The province has distributed 35 per cent of the vaccine it has received so far — the second-lowest rate among Canadian provinces.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nicholas Frew is an online reporter with CBC News. Hailing from Newfoundland, Frew moved to Halifax to attend journalism school. Prior to joining the CBC, Frew interned at the Winnipeg Free Press. Story idea? Email him at nick.frew@cbc.ca

With files from John Paul Tasker

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