COVID-19 Vaccine Development

News Update: Dec. 1, 2020

Canada's COVID-19 vaccines and quantities

To date, Canada has signed either a purchasing deal or an agreement in principle with the following seven pharmaceutical companies: 

Purchasing agreements:

·    AstraZeneca

·    GlaxoSmitheKline

·    Medicago

·    Pfizer

·    Moderna

Agreements in principle:

·    Johnson & Johnson

·    Novavax

Canada is expected to receive at least 194 million vaccine doses from these contracts, with an option for 220 million more, assuming these companies’ products are all eventually approved.

Of these companies, Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada’s chief medical adviser, has announced that the review of Pfizer’s/BioNTech’s vaccine candidate is the most advanced and is projected to be approved before Christmas. However, only four million out of the 20 million ordered doses are expected to arrive in Canada by the end of March 2021.

Moderna’s and AstraZeneca’s vaccine candidates are also reported to be in advanced approval stages.


The federal government has taken the lead on vaccine procurement and general distribution with the provinces managing vaccine delivery within their jurisdictions. In B.C. the government is still in the process of finalizing details. One of the main logistical challenges is transportation and storage of vaccine candidates like those of Pfizer and Moderna because of the storage requirements of -70 C and -20 C to ensure efficacy.

Dr. Bonnie Henry has said she expects COVID-19 vaccines could begin as early as January 2021 for some groups.

NACI recommendations on priority groups for first vaccinations

Given the initial limited availability of vaccine supply, distribution will be staggered and prioritized. Planning is underway on which groups will be vaccinated in the initial stages in B.C. This decision will be determined by the province with guidance from federal partners based on factors such as those at greatest risk, efficacy and safety data and vaccine availability.

Groups to be vaccinated first will likely include some of those in the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommendations on priority groups: 

Those at high risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19

·    Advanced age (especially those over 70 years old)

·    Other high-risk conditions (to be defined as the evidence base evolves)

Those most likely to transmit COVID-19 to those at high risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19 and workers essential to maintaining the COVID-19 response

·    Health-care workers, personal care workers, and caregivers providing care in long-term care facilities, or other congregate care facilities for seniors

·    Other workers most essential in managing the COVID-19 response or providing frontline care for COVID-19 patients

·    Household contacts of those at high-risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19

Those contributing to the maintenance of other essential services for the functioning of society

·    Certain individuals who cannot work virtually may have differential exposure to COVID-19 (e.g., police, firefighters, grocery store staff).

·    Designations of essential services in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic vary across jurisdictions within Canada. Guidance on essential services and functions in Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic, including lists published by provinces and territories, is available.

Those whose living or working conditions put them at elevated risk of infection and where infection could have disproportionate consequences, including Indigenous communities

·    These include institutions (e.g., correctional facilities), work settings (e.g., agricultural or meat production/packing facilities), and congregate living settings (e.g., shelters, quarters for migrant workers) have occurred.

NACI has also noted that these recommendations may change as more evidence becomes available. Once the supply chain has stabilized and more vaccines are available and/or approved, a larger rollout to other populations in whom the vaccine(s) are proven safe and effective is expected.