OTTAWA — Federal officials say they don’t understand Manitoba's position that it will take until the end of the year to vaccinate all adults in the province against COVID-19.
"That’s not the understanding and the figures that we’ve been working with," said Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer.
"We have that shared understanding that all Canadians, in all the province and territories, would be able to be offered vaccination by the end of September."
Earlier this month, Manitoba published its first immunization plan: a one-page document that casts doubt on Ottawa’s goal of allowing virtually all adults in Canada to get vaccinated by Sept. 30.
Instead, Manitoba said the federal data it has received suggests only 74 per cent of the province’s adult population will be vaccinated by Dec. 31.
Both figures are solely based on the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which are the only vaccines approved to date. The figures don't account for Health Canada approving other vaccines, such as the AstraZeneca vaccine, for which the federal government has already signed purchase contracts.
Manitoba believes it will only have enough doses to vaccinate 53 per cent of adults by the end of September. By year’s end, the province would have enough doses to reach 790,050 of its 1,068,553 adults.
The province said Thursday that remains its projection.
“We have that shared understanding that all Canadians, in all the province and territories, would be able to be offered vaccination by the end of September.” — Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer
Njoo could not account for the discrepancy. At a press conference on Thursday, he said Ottawa shares ample data with all provincial health officers.
"There are maybe some unknown factors, in terms of the stability of deliveries, and obviously we’re experiencing that right now. But certainly, it hasn’t come to my attention that there is a different sort of conclusion, in terms of how many Canadians or to what percentage of the population in any given province… would not be able to be offered vaccination, for all of their residents."
Njoo said he would try to touch base with Manitoba officials to see how they arrived at a different conclusion.
Canada has purchased a combined 116 million doses of the two approved vaccines, enough to vaccinate 1.5 times the population, though Ottawa has not laid out a precise timeline for the Pfizer and Moderna doses to be shipped to provinces.
On Thursday, Premier Brian Pallister reiterated that the province has taken a cautious and measured approach to its vaccine rollout, which has been criticized as slow.
"Our vaccine team has designed a strategy so that we have security of supply," he said.
"We didn’t put speed ahead of safety. We’re vaccinating our most vulnerable Manitobans: we're talking about seniors in seniors homes, we're talking about front-line workers, who protect seniors."
"We’re not going to sacrifice stats for speed."