Canada is well-placed to approve Biofech’s Pfizer and CONTID-19 vaccine soon – and it could be delivered to the country very quickly thereafter, the BioNTech executive said.
“If I’m using the UK as an example, we got approval at 1:00 am in the morning. We approved [the] release the vaccine and ship it within 24 hours, “said Sean Marett, chief business and chief commercial officer of BioNTech Germany, which partnered with Pfizer in the United States to develop one of the most promising COVID-19 vaccine candidates world.
“Certainly from the discussions we’ve had, Canada is well placed to approve the vaccine soon,” Marett told CBC’s Chief Political Correspondent Rosemary Barton on Sunday.
The Pfizer / BioNTech product – which was recently green lit in the UK for emergency use – could receive HealthCare approval as soon as the coming week. Health regulators are currently reviewing three other vaccines produced by Moderna, AstraZeneca and Jannsen.
“Once approved, we then release the vaccine and then it is shipped. We have already produced the vaccine and reserved doses for Canada,” Marett said Rosemary Barton Live.
Regulatory approval is a key step before the more detailed details of the federal government’s delivery plan can be laid out.
“We are negotiating for more precise distribution dates until Health Canada is approved,” Procurement Minister Anita Anand told CBC’s Vassy Kapelos earlier this week. “For that reason we are putting the logistics systems in place so that no time is lost between approving and then distributing it to the provinces and territories.”
Introducing the ‘biological equivalent of a moon landing’
Marett called the vaccine distribution plan a “biological equivalent of a moon landing.”
“You have to get everything absolutely right, and that, of course, includes timings,” Marett said, when asked about the exact delivery dates. “These things tend to… move around [for] a few days. But so far, from our experience with one country, the United Kingdom, we’ve seen things move quite smoothly. “
On Friday, Anand announced a contract with FedEx Express Canada to support the transportation of most vaccines nationwide.
But the Pfizer / BioNTech candidate will be delivered directly by the pharmaceutical company because the product needs to be kept at about -70 C to remain stable. Ottawa says it has already secured enough freezers to store up to 33.5 million units of the vaccine.
Marett said shipping and housing products at temperatures below zero is a process that is “well mapped.”
“Along with Pfizer, we’ve designed a storage box … where the vaccine arrives. You can use that as a -70 freezer. You can open the box twice a day and take the vaccine out as long as you you freeze for up to 15 days, “he explained.
Dry runs are expected to be distributed in provinces on Monday
Canada has signed an agreement with Pfizer and BioNTech to pre-order 20 million doses of the vaccine, with an option to buy 56 million more in the coming months. Pfizer says the shots are 95 percent effective based on the results of Phase 3 clinical trials.
Marett said his company was “absolutely shocked” by those findings, considering the vaccine had been developed in a matter of months rather than years.
“Ninety-five percent efficiency, as defined by whether you get it [COVID-19] symptoms or not … in our opinion, a shocking result, “he said.
Public health officials say that if all goes well, six million doses of Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are slated to arrive in Canada within the first three months of 2021. Both vaccines must be administered twice, meaning three million Canadians are among the first to receive an injection.
WATCHING Canadian officials practicing for vaccine distribution:
Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the former head of NATO who now heads logistics and vaccine operations for the Public Health Agency of Canada, said Friday that each province has now identified specific sites where shots will be received.
Fortin said dry runs are expected to take place in all provinces on Monday to ensure those involved in the rollout are prepared to handle the “very unique requirements” of an ultra-cold vaccine.