‘I need a date’: Ontario premier to ask drugmakers about COVID-19 vaccine delivery timeline

OTTAWA — Ontario Premier Doug Ford says he wants to know exactly when COVID-19 vaccines will be going into Ontarians’ arms.

Speaking to reporters at an event in Vaughan, Ont. on Monday, the premier said he is no more comfortable about the timeline for immunizations in the province now than he was last week.

“I have to get answers. I’ve been asking the federal government. We need to know when we’re getting it, how much we’re getting and what we’re getting,” Ford said. “There’s different vaccines out there so, to be perfectly frank, I’m not any more comfortable than I was last week.”

Ford said he would be speaking to vaccine makers, and added that he had a call with Pfizer line up for Monday afternoon.

“The clock is ticking,” he said. “We need answers, and we’ve worked very collaboratively with the federal government, but, you know, we need the answers. There’s three simple answers that we need. We can’t find out at the last minute that we’re getting vaccines tomorrow.”

Canada has paid to secure access to as many as 414 million doses of potential COVID-19 vaccines, as of late November, with an estimated six million doses expected to arrive in the country by March 31, 2021. The federal government has said that it has a $1-billion fund available to use for purchasing vaccines and the first Health Canada approvals could come before Christmas.

Prime Minister Trudeau created a firestorm last week when he said Canadians would have to wait to be vaccinated for COVID-19 because the first doses off the production lines will be used in the countries where they are made.

On Sunday, federal Conservative leader Erin O’Toole accused the Trudeau Liberals of waiting until a deal with a Chinese company had fallen through before making deals with Pfizer and Moderna, creating delays for Canadians.

However, over the weekend, the head of U.S.-based Moderna told the CBC that Canada is “not at the back of the line” when it comes to receiving doses of its vaccine candidate. 

Ford said he’s going to be asking the Pfizer CEO when Ontario will be getting its share of vaccines.

“I’m sure their answer is, well, it’s going to go through the federal government. I need a date. I’ve been asking and asking,” Ford said. 

Ford then compared the securing of vaccines to any other major business transaction.

“When you place an order for hundreds of millions of dollars and you aren’t getting answers, either—and I’m not accusing anyone of this—but either something’s going on, someone’s not being honest, or there’s incompetence, or maybe both. I’m not sure. And that’s not accusing anyone, the federal government or the pharmaceutical companies, but the clock is ticking,” the premier said.

“Everyone’s spending hundreds of millions of dollars and you can’t give me a delivery date? Unacceptable.”

In a tweet on Monday, Ford said he also spoke with staff from British drugmaker AstraZeneca. 

With files from the Canadian Press and CTVNews.ca’s Ryan Flanagan. 

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