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Counting Error Halves Number Of COVID-19 Vaccinations In Ontario

Officials say the double-counting error has been corrected.
Empty vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine are seen at The Michener Institute in Toronto on Jan. 4, 2021.
Empty vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine are seen at The Michener Institute in Toronto on Jan. 4, 2021.

OTTAWA — The Ontario government announced Thursday that it botched reporting its own vaccination data by misinterpreting the total number of doses administered as the number of people who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

A statement released by the Ministry of Health blamed the double-counting error on officials.

“As a result, the number of people who have been fully vaccinated is half of what is currently listed,” it reads.

The two approved vaccines manufactured by Pfizer and Moderna require two doses for full efficacy. “Officials inadvertently provided data on the number of doses administered to achieve full vaccination.”

The previous day, the province reported 96,000 people had been fully vaccinated.

Watch: COVID-19 in Canada, one year later. Story continues below video.

Ministry spokesperson David Jenson confirmed Thursday the data has since been updated and the current number of people who have been fully vaccinated is 55,286.The total number of doses administered remains unchanged.

Ontario is currently in phase one of its vaccine rollout plan, expanding vaccinations to hospital workers, essential caregivers, long-term care and retirement home residents, and First Nation communities, Indigenous populations in urban areas, and Métis and Inuit adults.

The province’s second phase of its vaccine rollout plan is a mass vaccination campaign projected to begin in July. The aim is to vaccinate 8.5 million people, but the vaccination rate will depend on supply of available COVID-19 vaccines.

Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Howard Njoo told reporters during a press conference Thursday that more than 904,000 people have so far received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, including 21 per cent of residents living in Canada’s northern communities.

Vaccine supply is an issue that has been top of mind recently with the temporary decrease of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine shipments imported to Canada and signals from the European Commission that it is considering an “export transparency mechanism.”

“As you know we’re in a period of limited global supply,” said Canadian Forces Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, who is leading the country’s vaccine distribution logistics.

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, participates in a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Jan. 15, 2021.
Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, participates in a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Jan. 15, 2021.

Canada is receiving no new shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine this week due to upgrades being made to the pharmaceutical company’s Belgium plant to increase production.

“This is a long game,” he said.

Over the next two weeks, vaccine imports will resume but “will remain lower than we had originally anticipated,” Fortin said. Some 79,000 doses are expected to arrive next week, and an additional 70,000 doses in the second week of February.

“Despite the latest fluctuations, Pfizer has recently indicated that we should expect to receive over 335,000 doses the week of Feb. 15. And over 395,000 the last week of February.”

Fortin said there is a “very active” dialogue with Pfizer. He said he expects to hit a target of six million vaccine doses, from Pfizer and Moderna, received by the end of the first quarter in late March.

Looking ahead, Fortin said despite active variables that are being monitored, the federal government is still forecasting 20 million doses of vaccines in the second quarter of the year.

“We’re expecting 20 million doses of authorized vaccines to be available starting in April for the April to June timeframe,” he said. “And may see more if other vaccine candidates receive regulatory approval from Health Canada.”

Canadian officials and Pfizer using different vaccine math

New questions have been raised after Pfizer and BioNTech submitted a request to Health Canada last week to make a change to vaccine labels to provide guidance that six doses can be pulled from a single vial rather than the five currently advised.

Fortin said the logistics of Canada’s vaccination plan is based on the advice that’s currently printed on Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine labels.

“We’re doing the math with five doses per vial. Pfizer is doing the math with six doses per vial. That decision hasn’t been made yet. So that reflects in the data.”

Earlier, Global News reported that some provinces have been given planning documents that forecasts 3.5 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine by the end of March.

Alberta’s Health Minister Tyler Shandro said in a statement Thursday that “for the third time this month” the province has been notified by the federal government that vaccine allocations would again decrease.

“This morning, we’ve been told that Alberta will receive 63,000 fewer vaccines in the first quarter of this year. This means 63,000 more Albertans will not receive this life-saving vaccine.”

Shandro accused Ottawa of failing Canadians. “This is a grim situation that seems to be getting worse every week,” he said.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott also tweeted the federal government told the provinces Pfizer shipments will be cut to 3.5 million by the end of March, and “every province will see its allocation reduced.”

When asked if the figure signals another drop in vaccine shipments is expected from the four million doses the company is contractually obligated to deliver, Fortin said that lower number was provided to provinces “for planning purposes” for March to serve as a baseline on which to build.

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