Canada ‘won’t cancel vaccine contracts’

15 April 2021

Canada does not plan to cancel vaccine contracts with Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and AstraZeneca (AZ) despite concerns over potential blood clots, MPs have been told.

Anita Anand, Canada’s procurement minister, told Canada’s House of Commons Committee on  Government Operations and Estimates the “procurements are all systems go” for the vaccine doses.

“Health Canada has deemed J&J, AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna safe and effective and as a result we will continue with our procurements of these vaccines,” she said.

Anand added the number of vaccines procured from Pfizer and Moderna alone would be “sufficient” to meet the government’s target for all Canadians to have received their first jab by June and second by September. 

MPs quizzed the minister following decisions made by the US, South Africa and the European Union to pause the rollout of the J&J vaccine amid concerns over rare blood clots. Meanwhile Denmark has stopped using the AZ jab completely for similar reasons.

Anand added the procurements had “laid the groundwork for the largest inoculation campaign in this country's history”, adding the country had committed to spend up to $8bn on vaccine contracts. 

She added that despite being originally promised 6m doses of vaccines before the end of the first quarter of 2021, this target had been exceeded by 3.5m doses. 

The minister was also probed on delays of Moderna jabs. Anand said the delays had been around three to four days and were due to quality assurance at the facility making the vaccines.

“It is not the case that there's an issue with the quality per se but there is a backlog of vaccines that need to be tested before they can leave the factory,” she said. 

Anand’s comments come as the federal government has faced criticism over the speed of the procurement of vaccines and their rollout across Canadian provinces. 

Last month, Ontario’s premier Doug Ford slammed Canada’s federal government procurement of Covid vaccines as a “joke” over shortages of vaccines in the province.

Earlier this month, the province entered into a four-week lockdown due to a surge in cases.

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