How, when and to whom provinces plan to rollout out COVID-19 vaccines

Provinces are preparing to roll out Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine after it was approved by Health Canada on Wednesday, with many hoping to start inoculating high-risk populations like health-care workers and long-term care residents by next week.

But many also face logistical challenges in storing the vaccine, which has eliminated the territories from receiving them.

Here is a look at plans across the country.

Alberta

About 3,900 doses of the Pfizer vaccine will arrive in Alberta next week, and immunizations for ICU doctors and nurses, respiratory therapists and long-term care workers are expected to begin Dec. 16. Since two doses are required, that means around 1,950 people will be immunized.

Because the initial doses of the vaccine can be administered only at the sites where it is delivered — due to need for ultra-cold storage — the province is not yet able to begin vaccinating patients at facilities. Instead, shots will be given at the two initial shipment locations in Edmonton and Calgary. 

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The first acute-care staff to get the vaccines will come from the Foothills Hospital and the Peter Lougheed Centre in Calgary, and from University of Alberta and Royal Alexandra hospitals in Edmonton. Alberta Health Services will book appointments for those staff to receive their second dose when they receive their first. 

The Government of Alberta says it anticipates it will be able to immunize up to 435,000 Albertans who are most at-risk between January and March 2021.

Starting in January, the following groups will receive the vaccine:

  • Long-term care and some supported living residents and staff. 

  • Seniors aged 75 and older. 

  • On-reserve First Nations people over age 65.

  • Health-care workers most needed to ensure workforce capacity.

Ontario

Ontario will administer its first COVID-19 vaccines next Tuesday at two hospitals in Toronto and Ottawa.

The first vaccines will go to health-care workers at long-term care homes and other high-risk places, Premier Doug Ford said in a news release.

More details are set to be provided on Friday, Ford’s statement said.

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Manitoba

Manitoba is slated to receive doses next week, and expects to receive enough doses to vaccinate more than 100,000 people by March 31 of next year.

The first 1,950 doses are reserved for health-care workers in the critical care field, the vast majority of whom work in Winnipeg. Over the next three months, more locations will be established in Winnipeg, Brandon, Thompson, Steinbach, Gimli, Portage la Prairie and The Pas.

Details on how the first 900 health workers can book appointments to get the vaccine will be released in the coming days. 

Beyond that, the province is still working out details on how it will notify people that they are eligible for the vaccine. 

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Saskatchewan

Vaccine doses will start arriving in Saskatchewan next week to health-care workers at Regina General Hospital who provide direct care to COVID-19 patients.

Phase 1 of the province’s vaccine delivery plan — with 202,052 doses expected within the first quarter of 2021 — will focus on health-care workers, elderly residents in care homes, seniors over 80 and residents in northern remote communities.

Phase 2 of the vaccine rollout, which will see the general population begin to be vaccinated, is scheduled to begin in April 2021.



British Columbia

B.C. plans on immunizing 400,000 people against COVID-19 by March 2021, with priority given to residents and staff of long-term care homes and health-care workers.

As more doses of the vaccine become available, priority will be given to seniors over 80, people with underlying health conditions, people who are underhoused, and people living in remote and isolated Indigenous communities.

By April, front-line workers including teachers, grocery store workers, firefighters, and people working in food processing plants will be prioritized.

As doses increase, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says vaccines will be distributed, moving down the population age range in increments.

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Quebec

A limited number of vaccine doses will likely be available in Quebec starting next week.

Patients in residential and long-term care centres, which accounted for the vast majority of deaths related to COVID-19, will be the first to get the Pfizer vaccine in the province as early as next Monday. Patients will receive the vaccinations on site.

People living in private seniors’ residences and those in isolated communities, including Indigenous communities and particularly those located in Nunavik and James Bay, will be next. 

The next groups of people to receive the vaccine will be organized by age group, starting with those 80 and up, then 70 to 79, and 60 to 69, followed by those who are 60 and under and have other risk factors.

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New Brunswick

The first doses of Pfizer’s vaccine will arrive in New Brunswick around Dec. 14, with a second shipment before the end of the year. 

The first shipment will be delivered to the Miramichi Regional Hospital, said Greg MacCallum, director of the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization, who is leading the rollout of the vaccine. It was chosen based on its central location, said MacCallum. The hospital — which has installed an ultra-low-temperature freezer — can be reached within two or three hours from virtually anywhere in the province, he said.

Health Minister Dorothy Shephard said long-term care residents and staff, health-care workers, emergency responders and seniors will be prioritized.

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Newfoundland and Labrador

Health Minister John Haggie says the thermal shipper — used to keep vaccine doses at a consistent temperature during transport — arrived in N.L. on Wednesday, with deliveries expect next week.

Haggie said the province’s vaccine committee also met on Wednesday morning with distribution plans “significantly advanced.” He said by the time the vaccine arrives the province will be in a position to “highlight” high risk groups who will receive the first doses. 

Prince Edward Island

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison said the first doses of  COVID-19 vaccine could arrive on P.E.I. as early as next week, allowing the province to vaccine 1,000 people, starting with the most vulnerable: residents and staff in long-term care.

The owner of a tuna processing company in North Lake is lending the province two lab-approved freezers to help store COVID-19 vaccines.

Crews work to move two lab-approved super freezers that can reach –87 C from a tuna plant in North Lake, P.E.I., to Charlottetown. The owner of the plant is lending them to the province to help store the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for distribution. (Jason Tompkins )

Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia is expecting one batch of 1,950 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine this month, with regular weekly allotments starting in January.

The first people in the province to receive the vaccine will be front-line health-care workers, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang announced Tuesday.

Premier Stephen McNeil said Nova Scotia chose to target frontline health-care workers first because they are the ones most likely to transmit to long-term care residents and the elderly.

Right now the only freezer in the province with cold enough temperatures to store the vaccines is in Halifax. As such, the first doses will have to be administered in the central zone. McNeil said anyone tapped for priority access who is outside the Halifax area will be brought in to receive their dose.

An ultra-low temperature freezer that will store the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is seen in Halifax. (Nova Scotia government)

Territories

That first batch of nearly 250,000 doses will be available in Canada before the end of the year, but none will go to the territories.

The North lacks the freezers required to store the Pfizer vaccine, which the company says requires a freezer at 80 C to 60 C or in a thermal container at 90 C to 60 C.

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the military commander who’s leading the national vaccine distribution effort, said the territories indicated a preference for other vaccine candidates, “because of the complexity associated with distributing the Pfizer vaccine.”

Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut’s chief public health officer, made similar statements last Friday, saying the territory is more likely to get the Moderna vaccine because the Pfizer vaccine’s strict storage and shipping requirements aren’t appropriate for remote communities. He said Nunavut’s vaccines would be mostly, if not entirely, from Moderna.

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