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Pfizer shortage will have 'significant' impact in immediate period, says minister

VICTORIA — British Columbia's health minister says the reduction in shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to Canada will have a significant effect, but just in the immediate period.
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VICTORIA — British Columbia's health minister says the reduction in shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to Canada will have a significant effect, but just in the immediate period. 

Adrian Dix said the limited supply of vaccine because of a delay of shipments announced by the pharmaceutical giant will affect vaccination plans through February and March in B.C. 

The shortage means the province will receive about half of the 50,000 doses it was supposed to get through that period, Dix said at a news conference Friday. 

"And obviously, any time we get reports that we're going to get more vaccine, we're happy," he said. "And any time we get reports that we're going to get less vaccine, we're not as happy." 

The shortage could mean that health officials have to revisit the 35-day gap between providing the first and second doses of the vaccine, he said. 

"So, what it means for British Columbia is it'll have some effect, some significant effect, on this stage of the priority one groups that we've laid out over when they get their doses," he said. "And a contributing factor to that is the discussion of second doses and when they come forward." 

The province has concentrated distribution of its first doses of vaccine to front-line health-care workers, those working and living in long-term care facilities and First Nations communities. 

The World Health Organization recommends the doses of vaccines be given 21 to 28 days apart. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has said B.C.'s decision for a 35-day gap is safe and would allow for more people to get their vaccine. 

The province reported 509 new COVID-19 cases on Friday for a total of 60,117 infections in British Columbia.

It also reported an additional nine deaths, bringing the number of fatalities to 1,047. 

Almost 76,000 residents have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine so far. 

Federal Procurement Minister Anita Anand said Friday there would be an "unfortunate" delay where only half of Canada's promised COVID-19 vaccine doses by Pfizer-BioNTech will arrive in the next month. The delay is caused by production issues at a plant in Belgium.

Dix said there's no change in the amount of Moderna allocation that the province is receiving. 

The premier and health officials will have further announcements about proceeding with vaccination plans in the coming week, he said.

"It's our hope that this is just a small blip in what's happening," Dix said. "But regardless, with the change in circumstances, we'll have to get organized around that change."

— By Hina Alam in Vancouver

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 15, 2021.

The Canadian Press