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Foreign sourcing to delay Canada COVID-19 vaccine distribution

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledges that manufacturers’ countries will “prioritize helping their citizens first.”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned on Tuesday that Canada will receive its COVID-19 vaccines later than the countries it has ordered them from, but said his government is making the logistics preparations to distribute them as quickly as possible.

Canada has reserved hundreds of millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccines, including with the makers of the most promising ones: Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca. But none are produced in Canada, which doesn’t have a domestic capacity, something that Trudeau acknowledged would delay the initial vaccine rollout.

“Countries like the United States, Germany and the U.K. do have domestic pharmaceutical facilities, which is why they’re obviously going to prioritize helping their citizens first,” Trudeau said.

But he said the government is working to ensure that the vaccines will be distributed quickly, even if it’s not clear when.

“We are working with a number of partners including the Canadian military that as soon as vaccines arrive and are deemed safe, they will be distributed to Canadians,” Trudeau said during a news conference in Ottawa. “We’re making sure we have the plan in place to move as quickly as possible, but it is premature to start circling dates on a calendar or saying this vaccine is going to arrive in this amount on this day in this community because there’s a lot of work to do between now and then. But we’re on it.”

Trudeau said his government has been working with allies to ensure that Canada’s vaccine contracts are fulfilled.

“I’m confident that we’re going to be able to access the necessary vaccines for Canadians across international borders,” he said.

Canada struggled at times with the global competition for personal protective equipment and medical supplies during the spring. However, Trudeau’s government successfully negotiated with the Trump administration to preserve access to 3M’s 95 masks after it moved to ban exports

Trudeau mentioned that episode on Tuesday, noting that “We worked closely with the United States to emphasize the integration of our supply lines that flow back and forth close across the border and ensure essential supplies continue to get delivered.”

The Canadian government plans to work with at least one private logistics provider to handle the end-to-end logistics of vaccine distribution. Last week, it prequalified five large companies to bid on an expansive vaccine logistics contract.

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Nate Tabak

Nate Tabak is a Toronto-based journalist and producer who covers cybersecurity and cross-border trucking and logistics for FreightWaves. He spent seven years reporting stories in the Balkans and Eastern Europe as a reporter, producer and editor based in Kosovo. He previously worked at newspapers in the San Francisco Bay Area, including the San Jose Mercury News. He graduated from UC Berkeley, where he studied the history of American policing. Contact Nate at