Ontario Leader Blames Pfizer for COVID-19 Vaccine Delays

TORONTO (AP) -- The leader of Canada's most populous province said Thursday he isn't buying the explanation given by Pfizer about why the company has deferred next week's coronavirus vaccine deliveries to Canada.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said that it is unacceptable that other countries are getting doses and Canada is not.

“This falls solely on Pfizer for letting us down,” said Ford, who spoke to the chief executive of Pfizer's Canadian division Tuesday.

Pfizer announced a temporary reduction in deliveries last Friday so it could upscale its Puurs, Belgium, plant, which supplies all shots delivered outside the United States. Pfizer said any small step backward now in deliveries would result in a huge jump ahead later in the year.

“I don't buy any of that crap,” Ford said. “Bottom line, get us vaccines. I don't care what you're building, you can throw any excuses you want at me, I don't buy it. We placed an order, we have a contract, meet the obligations of the contract because lives are in jeopardy if you continue screwing this up.”

Ford has been criticized for a slow rollout of the vaccine in Ontario amid a second wave of infections. He noted that they had to close a mass vaccination clinic in Toronto.

Keanna Ghazvini, a spokeswoman for Pfizer, declined to comment on Ford's specific remarks but said they listened to Ford's concerns earlier this week.

“We recognized that it has made it more difficult to smoothly advance the scale up of the immunization program in Ontario and throughout Canada. We reiterated this is a short-term situation and our focus is on meeting quarterly commitments,” Ghazvini said in a statement.

Governments in Europe also say the Pfizer delay is costing critical time during the early stages of the rollout to care homes and hospital personnel.

The delay, which the U.S. pharma giant said would last for a few weeks, affects not only the number of people who can get inoculated during that period but also throws off the careful choreography that governments mapped out to get elderly residents and caregivers the required two doses within a strict timetable of several weeks.

The EU now expects Pfizer to deliver across the 27-nation bloc 92% of what was expected over this week and the next one. The missing 8% is expected to be recovered during the week of Feb. 15. Maj. Gen. Dany Fortin, who is leading Canada's logistical rollout and distribution of vaccines, said Pfizer deferred next week's deliveries entirely to Canada and there will be a 50% in vaccine supplies until mid-February.

“Every day we lose is a day we have lost in the war and it's a death,” Ford said.

Ford also repeated a plea to U.S. President Joe Biden to share some of the Pfizer doses made at its facility in nearby Kalamazoo, Michigan.

“We appreciate any support from the new president, President Biden, we need your support. You have millions of doses six hours away. Your No. 1 ally in the world needs your help right now and we need you to step up,” Ford said.

The U.S. federal government has an agreement with Pfizer in which the first 100 million doses of the vaccine produced in the U.S. will be owned by the U.S. government and will be distributed in the U.S.

Canadian Federal Procurement Minister Anita Anand has said that all of the doses that are emerging from the Michigan plant are for distribution in the United States.

A senior Canadian official said if after those 100 million doses are delivered in the U.S., the Canadian government will push hard on ensuring doses are delivered as quickly as possible from wherever they are made. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak publicly about it. Canada's current contract specifies that Canada's doses will come from the facility in Puurs.