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B.C. to get first 4,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine next week: Horgan

In the Dec. 8 tweet, Horgan wrote the doses would be reserved for 'high-risk people in BC'
Horgan announced B.C. would reveive an initial 4,000-dose batch of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in a tweet Tuesday, Dec. 8. - Photograph via Kamloops Matters

British Columbia is set to receive its first 4,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine by the end of next week, said Premier John Horgan in a tweet Tuesday afternoon. 

In the Dec. 8 tweet, Horgan wrote the doses would be reserved for “high-risk people in BC,” adding further details will be provided Wednesday in conjunction with provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix.

The news came as federal officials brushed aside concerns U.S. President Donald Trump would block the supply of the Pfizer vaccine to Canada through an executive order. 

In a call with reporters Tuesday morning, Minister for Intergovernmental Affairs Dominic Leblanc noted the contract with Pfizer considered access to the vaccine from both its U.S. and European manufacturing facilities.  

“Deliberately, in the contracts themselves, we contemplated having access to production facilities on more than one continent,” said Leblanc. “We’re also confident that the contractual obligations with Pfizer and other vaccine makers will be respected.”

“We’re not concerned.”

Yet just who qualifies as “high-risk people” remains an open question. Unlike other vaccines further behind in the regulatory process — including those of Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson — Pfizer’s must be kept at an ultra-cold minus 70 degrees Celsius and the company has recommended early batches be administered at centralized locations. 

That could create practical limitations in its distribution — meaning the initial batches will likely go to health care workers, instead of residents of long-term care facilities, said Henry.

Of the nearly 13,000 reported deaths due to COVID-19 in Canada, 74% are thought to have occurred in long-term care facilities, a number that drops to a still significant 45% in British Columbia, according to a tally kept by the National Institute on Ageing.

When asked how such limitations would affect the administration of the vaccine to long-term care homes across the country — something both B.C. and Canadian health officials say should be prioritized — Canada’s chief medical health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said Tuesday “it’s a rapidly evolving situation” and “everyone has to remain flexible and adaptable.”

Pfizer’s vaccine is the first rigorously tested COVID-19 vaccine to be approved in the world after the United Kingdom gave it the green light last week. The company has contracts with the Canadian government to provide up to 249,000 early doses in December. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, meanwhile, is scheduled to rule on the safety and efficacy of the Pfizer vaccine Dec. 10 and Health Canada is expected to follow soon thereafter.