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Vaccine shortages in Canada has some wondering if provinces could do more

Last Updated Jan 27, 2021 at 6:58 pm MDT

CALGARY (CityNews) – Provincial governments are unlikely to secure their own shipments of COVID-19 vaccines as shortages in Canada continue.

That’s according to a few political scientists, who say the provinces have little recourse in striking their own deals.

Canada has so far vaccinated about two per cent of its population with its two approved vaccines – Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech.

But the delivery of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has ground to a halt as the company upscales its plant in Belgium. As a result, Canada will receive zero doses of the Pfizer vaccine this week and a reduced amount for the weeks to come.

“All of this uncertainty is really starting people to turn and ask very serious questions of governments and of these companies,” said Lori Williams, political scientist at Mount Royal University.

“For the time being, it is very bad news for, frankly, all of the governments in Canada.”

If provinces wanted to try to order their own shipments, the challenges would likely be insurmountable.

“There’s just no indication to me why a drug company would take seriously a province who wants to break free and jump that queue and try and get the vaccines sooner than vaccines that the company has already contractually agreed to provide to the national government,” said Lorian Hardcastle, associate professor at the University of Calgary.

Any attempts by provinces to go around the federal government and approve and secure vaccines from other manufacturers would also likely fall flat.

“The drug approval process that we have is federal,” added Hardcastle. “I find it hard to believe that a province could strike up a body to approve vaccines and to start and finish that approval process than the one that is under way federally.”

The high degree of uncertainty expected in the coming weeks has led some to wonder if those desperate enough will look elsewhere.

“As more people break out and try to secure access to vaccine for themselves, I think there’s going to be more of the kind of pressure and the kind of conflict and the disputes that we’ve seen already,” said Williams. “And I’m not sure there’s going to be a clear path just by going your own direction to getting access more effectively, quicker.”

One solution could be for Canada to produce its own vaccine, but that likely won’t happen until the end of the year.

–with files from The Canadian Press