Pfizer Canada head says company ‘extremely committed’ to meeting vaccine delivery targets


The head of Pfizer Canada says the pharmaceutical giant is entirely focused on meeting its upcoming delivery targets and that it’s possible the company could continue to accelerate shipments of its COVID-19 vaccine to the country.

“Pfizer is extremely committed to meeting its contractual obligations, and we have every intention of meeting the four million commitment by the end of March that the prime minister has been talking about,” Pfizer president Cole Pinnow said Sunday on Rosemary Barton Live.

“As long as we’re honouring our contract, we don’t really feel that it’s value added to talk about hypotheticals,” Pinnow said, when asked by CBC Chief Political Correspondent Rosemary Barton about potential penalties for missed deadlines.

The early months of Canada’s COVID-19 inoculation campaign have been beset by disruptions to the delivery schedule. But on Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the country’s vaccine supply would see a boost in the months ahead.

Pfizer is now set to deliver 2.8 million more shots between April and June than originally planned. Deliveries previously earmarked for later in the year have also been moved up, meaning Canada will receive 6.2 million more doses than expected between July and August. Four million extra doses of the Moderna vaccine are also expected to arrive this summer.

As far as the Pfizer-BioNTech product is concerned, Pinnow said it’s not outside the realm of possibility that the company’s deliveries to Canada could be shifted forward again.

“We’re going to continue to look for opportunities to accelerate delivery. We recognize that we want to bring back as much vaccine to Canadians as soon as possible.”

Belgian plant provided Pfizer with ‘certainty’

Pfizer’s shipments to Canada dropped in recent weeks as the company’s manufacturing plant in Puurs, Belgium, underwent upgrades to increase the production of its vaccine. 

The company told the Globe and Mail last November that Canada would be sent doses from Pfizer’s plant in Kalamazoo, Mich., but the company backtracked on that statement earlier this year.

“We were working to accelerate the delivery to Canada of [the vaccine], based upon the accelerated review process that Health Canada had put in place,” Pinnow told Barton. “So as part of that, we re-evaluated what our supply chain plan was going to be.”

A driver pulls his truck out of the Pfizer plant in Puurs, Belgium, on Dec. 21, 2020. Work to scale up manufacturing operations at the facility is now complete. (Valentin Bianchi/The Associated Press)

When he was U.S. president, Donald Trump signed an executive order late last year aimed at ensuring Americans are given priority for receiving vaccines developed or procured by the United States government.

“There was some uncertainty with the prior administration, and so we wanted to have confidence in where we were sourcing the product, and we felt that Belgium really provided us with more certainty at the time,” Pinnow said.

Contracts under wraps

Canada is projected to receive 40 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine by September — the federal government’s target month to vaccinate all Canadians seeking a jab.

But under the agreement the country has signed with the pharmaceutical company, Canada can receive up to 76 million doses in total.

“We’re always open to talking about incremental demand or incremental supply,” Pinnow said.

Last week, federal Procurement Minister Anita Anand told Barton she was in talks with pharmaceutical companies about disclosing elements of the contracts Canada signed with its vaccine suppliers.

Procurement Minister Anita Anand told CBC’s Rosemary Barton that Ottawa cannot release information from its deals with vaccine suppliers without approval from companies. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Ottawa and Pfizer have made public delivery schedules shared by suppliers, but other details — including how much Canada has paid per dose — remain under wraps.

“I think both the government and Pfizer recognize that there are commercial and geopolitical sensitivities to releasing details in the contract,” Pinnow said Sunday. “And so at this point, we’re both honouring the contract, and there really isn’t the need to release those details.”

The Pfizer Canada head also said that while it’s too soon to determine whether Canadians will need a booster shot of the vaccine in the years ahead, COVID-19 likely won’t be eradicated right away.

“We’re in the process of analyzing all the known variants, and we’ll continue to monitor for others that might crop up in the future,” Pinnow said. “The scientific opinion right now seems to come to consensus that this virus will become endemic in the population in one capacity or another.”

WATCH | Too early to say if COVID-19 booster shots will be needed, Pfizer Canada head says:

Pfizer Canada president Cole Pinnow told Rosemary Barton that while the pharmaceutical company is studying coronavirus variants, it’s still too early to know whether COVID-19 booster shots will become a reality. 1:30

You can watch full episodes of Rosemary Barton Live on CBC Gem, the CBC’s streaming service.

Read more at CBC.ca