FILE - In this March 16, 2020 file photo, a subject receives a shot in the first-stage safety study clinical trial of a potential vaccine by Moderna for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

FILE - In this March 16, 2020 file photo, a subject receives a shot in the first-stage safety study clinical trial of a potential vaccine by Moderna for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

Feds order supplies to give two doses of COVID-19 vaccine when it’s ready

There are almost two dozen vaccines in clinical trials around the world

The federal government is ordering more than 75 million syringes, alcohol swabs and bandages so it can inoculate Canadians as soon as a COVID-19 vaccine is ready.

Procurement Minister Anita Anand says Ottawa intends to stockpile enough vaccine supplies to give at least two doses to every Canadian whenever a vaccine is available.

There are almost two dozen vaccines in clinical trials around the world and at least 140 more in earlier stages of development, but most experts predict it will be well into 2021 before the first vaccines could be ready for wide use.

Quebec biopharmaceutical company Medicago began Canada’s first human COVID-19 vaccine trials July 13 and expects to have the initial results of its tests on 180 people by early fall.

Still, Anand says Canada wants to be ready and so has ordered 75.2 million each of syringes, alcohol swabs, bandages, and gauze pads, and 250,000 needle-disposal containers to be delivered no later than the end of October.

The contracts for the syringes are already in place but bids for the other supplies opened last week and will be accepted until the end of July.

Ottawa is also looking to transition its multibillion-dollar medical supplies purchase program from pandemic panic buying to longer-term planning. It is seeking a private company to take over the logistics of ordering, receiving, storing and distributing millions of face masks, respirators, surgical gowns and other personal protective equipment every month.

A request for bids for a logistics co-ordinator was posted July 16. The government wants a supplier that can procure or provide temperature-controlled warehouse space near Toronto and Hamilton airports, another near Montreal and a third in either British Columbia or Alberta. The winning bidder needs to be able to handle 27,000 pallets of supplies each month, as well as 220 shipping containers from cargo ships, and another 400 cases of other goods.

ALSO READ: Quebec becomes first province to make masks mandatory in indoor public spaces

The frenzied global purchasing of COVID-19 medical supplies has dominated Public Services and Procurement Canada for months now.

Once described by Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland as the “wild west” of buying supplies, enormous demand for masks, gowns, gloves and hand sanitizer to respond to the pandemic turned into a season of Survivor in which governments needed to outwit, outplay and outlast others competing for the same goods.

The intensity of that process has relaxed slightly said Anand, but not enough that Canada is yet willing to disclose its international suppliers.

“We have to be careful not to put in jeopardy our supply chains,” she said.

“Where we believe the supply chain is still in jeopardy, in other words there is still intense global demand for a particular piece of PPE, it would not be prudent for us to reveal the names of suppliers as the competition is still very intense for that good.”

Canada has ordered millions of masks, gowns, gloves and other supplies to be delivered into 2021, and has accepted delivery of 99 planeloads of supplies to date.

In some cases, we did not need as much as we expected. More than 40,000 ventilators have been ordered, but not as many COVID-19 patients have needed ventilators as predicted. The 367 already delivered and the others on the way will be stored by Ottawa in case they are needed in future waves of the virus.

An agreement between Ottawa and the provinces means 80 per cent of what Ottawa buys it will turn around and ship to the provincial governments when they need it. The other 20 per cent is going into the “National Emergency Strategic Stockpile,” kept in a series of warehouses across Canada that store everything from medical supplies to temporary hospital cots and drugs to treat a variety of infectious diseases.

Ottawa is now asking for local warehouse owners in Ottawa to step up with space to expand the stockpile, which was found to be lacking last winter when Canada needed it most.

The country’s deputy chief public health officer Dr. Howard Njoo said Friday some “hard lessons” have been learned about the stockpile and Canada’s dependence on international sources to supply it.

He said it was always believed that the national stockpile and the supplies provinces had would be enough for an immediate emergency and whatever else the country needed could be ordered. That assumption proved very wrong when governments worldwide all needed the same things at the same time.

Before COVID-19, Canada had little ability to make much of what was needed here at home.

“We’ve also learned that we can’t in the future necessarily depend solely on global supply chains, we have to be more self sufficient,” he said.

“I certainly feel better, I think, about our situation, where we are now compared to let’s say back in January, February,” he said.

About 40 per cent of the supplies Canada needs are now being sourced in Canada, including, for the first time, testing swabs and N95 masks.

Anand said one of the key lessons is the need to make sure orders of supplies are distributed before they expire. Last year two million N95 masks kept in a warehouse in Regina were thrown out because they had expired. Those could have been used before the pandemic rather than wasted.

Anand said there is work ongoing to co-ordinate the federal procurement and provincial needs with the maintenance of a stockpile, and she said the same principle is being extended to other supplies, such as the vaccine equipment.

“Rest assured if those syringes are not used for vaccine, they are able to be used in other circumstances, for example, to administer the flu shot,” she said.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirusvaccines

Just Posted

Councillor Doug Elford. (File photo: Amy Reid)
Elford to join Surrey Homelessness and Housing Society as a director

Fellow Safe Surrey Coalition Councillors Laurie Guerra, Mandeep Nagra and Allison Patton will be re-appointed to the board

(Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Surrey council moves to reduce parking along rapid transit corridors

This also targets rental housing developments in Rapid Transit Areas

Big Splash water park is located in Tsawwassen. (submitted photo)
Big Splash reopens Canada Day with changes to keep the water park ‘safe for everyone’

Executive Hotels & Resorts has owned and operated the attraction since 2017

A cyclist stops traffic to allow a gaggle of geese cross the road. (Tino Fluckiger photo)
White Rock man asks motorists to be mindful of wildlife after close call

Impatient motorists drives into oncoming traffic

Elgin Park Secondary students rally for climate change outside of their South Surrey in 2019. (Nick Greenizan photo)
City of Surrey set to host online climate-action panel

June 23 Zoom event to include speakers, question-and-answer period

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir stands outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School after speaking to reporters, in Kamloops, B.C., on Friday, June 4, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Kamloops chief says more unmarked graves will be found across Canada

Chief Rosanne Casimir told a virtual news conference the nation expects to release a report at the end of June

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A woman wears a vaccinated sticker after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. ranks among highest in world in COVID-19 first-dose shots: health officials

More than 76% of eligible people have received their 1st shot

A screenshot of the First Peoples Cultural Councils First Peoples’ Map. (First Peoples Cultural Council)
Online resource blends B.C.-Alberta’s Indigenous languages, art and culture

Advisor says initiative supports the urgent need to preserve Indigenous languages

An artists conception of the new terminal building at the Pitt Meadows Regional Airport.
Air travel taking off in B.C., but lack of traffic controllers a sky-high concern

There will be demand for more air traffic controllers: Miller

Canadian Armed Forces experts are on their way to North Vancouver after a local homeowner expressed worry about a military artifact he recently purchased. (Twitter DNV Fire and Rescue)
Military called in to deal with antique ‘shell’ at North Vancouver home

‘The person somehow purchased a bombshell innocently believing it was an out-of-commission military artifact’

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz have set their wedding date for February, hoping that more COVID-19 restrictions will have lifted. (The Macleans)
B.C. couples ‘gambling’ on whether COVID rules will let them dance at their wedding

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz pushed back their wedding in hopes of being able to celebrate it without the constraints of COVID-19

Most Read