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Newfoundland and Labrador prepares for lower Pfizer shipments

Chief Medical Health Officer Janice Fitzgerald
Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald. - Screen grab

Minister says vaccine developer has promised bigger shipments in March to make up for shortfall

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

Only days after reporting a likely increase in Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine shipments over the next month, Newfoundland and Labrador’s health minister had to backtrack on that estimate upon news the developers are revamping their European production facilities.

Pfizer Canada spokeswoman Christina Antoniou announced the production facility in Puurs, Belgium, is undergoing some modifications in the coming weeks to increase the number of doses it can pump out.

On Friday, Dr. John Haggie told reporters that while the numbers will be down over the next three to four weeks, Pfizer said it will still meet its promised quota by the end of March.

Haggie said the numbers he has been quoted mean the Canadian totals will go from 214 trays to 195 trays next week, then only 41 trays in the last week of January.

Numbers will begin to climb again in February, and March shipments will increase markedly to make up for the slowdown.

Each tray contains 975 doses.

Haggie said he expects full details on the province’s share of the vaccine by next week.

Meanwhile, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald says the province’s regional health authorities are doing their best to administer what vaccines are arriving.

“We receive regular shipments of vaccine, and the regional health authorities work diligently to ensure that their allotment is administered as expediently and efficiently as possible, while ensuring a quality vaccination program,” she said.

The vaccine will come, she said, but people still need to be patient and continue health precautions.

Fitzgerald also asked people to understand that the troubles experienced by others in the country are hitting home for people in this province as well, even though the case numbers here are low.

“We do not know what others may be going through, and some days can be tougher than others,” she said. “What we can always do is to be kind.”

The province added one new case to its roster Friday, raising the total number of active cases in the province to five, with one person in hospital.

Early projections suggest the province could get 280,000 doses of vaccine in the second quarter of the year.

Asked if the province is ready for that, Fitzgerald said, “Absolutely.”

“We’ve given 230,000-plus doses of flu vaccine already, and that was in the middle of a pandemic while we were dealing with outbreaks and everything else.”

Election changes

Meanwhile, the way public updates are handled is likely to change in the coming weeks.

Haggie said Fitzgerald will give briefings on her own, since the premier and minister will technically be on the campaign trail.

Those briefings will switch from three a week to once a week.

“Obviously, if there is a change in the public health status, then those arrangements will be revisited,” he said.

Peter Jackson is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering health for The Telegram.

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