A pharmacists fills a syringe from a vial of the Janssen, Johnson & Johnson, COVID-19 vaccine at the Vaccine Village in Antwerp, Belgium, Friday, April 30, 2021. The mayor of a COVID-19 hot spot in Alberta says she’s disappointed that Johnson & Johnson vaccines earmarked for her community are delayed but she values the work Health Canada is doing to ensure every dose is safe. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Virginia Mayo

A pharmacists fills a syringe from a vial of the Janssen, Johnson & Johnson, COVID-19 vaccine at the Vaccine Village in Antwerp, Belgium, Friday, April 30, 2021. The mayor of a COVID-19 hot spot in Alberta says she’s disappointed that Johnson & Johnson vaccines earmarked for her community are delayed but she values the work Health Canada is doing to ensure every dose is safe. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Virginia Mayo

Hot-spot town expecting J&J COVID-19 vaccine says officials seeking other sources

Health Canada said it’s seeking info from the FDA and Janssen to determine if doses meet standards

Officials in some COVID-19 hot spots awaited word on immunization efforts Saturday after learning Health Canada was holding back expected Johnson & Johnson vaccines over safety concerns, while several provinces continued to set new critical care and case count records.

Mayor Karen Sorensen of Banff, Alta., thanked provincial health officials for exploring alternate sources Saturday after learning shipments of the single-dose vaccine expected to arrive in Alberta Monday were paused.

“We are disappointed that the Johnson & Johnson vaccines earmarked for Alberta are delayed, but we value the work of Health Canada to ensure they have the information needed to verify the safety of every single dose,” Sorensen said in a statement.

Plans to distribute the first 300,000 doses were put on hold after Health Canada learned part of the vaccines were manufactured at a Maryland facility that botched 15 million doses bound for the U.S. market.

Health Canada said Friday it’s seeking information from the FDA and J&J’s pharmaceutical arm, Janssen, to determine if the doses shipped to Canada meet required safety standards.

The Alberta government had planned to split 34,700 doses between Banff and the Rural Municipality of Wood Buffalo, which includes Fort McMurray and has the province’s highest case rate.

The province had not yet indicated if the delay would affect the vaccine program in the Wood Buffalo, a spokesman for the regional government said Saturday.

When asked what the alternate plan is for the hot spots, an Alberta government spokesman pointed to statements Health Minister Tyler Shandro made on Twitter Friday.

“Despite this setback, we fully intend to keep our commitment to the people of Banff and (Wood Buffalo). Alberta Health officials are urgently looking into how we can deliver doses from other sources,” Shandro wrote, while adding that incoming doses of different vaccines are often already earmarked for other phases.

“We hope this is only a brief delay.”

Residents of the two Alberta hot spots are among several priority groups across Canada who were looking forward to the promise of J&J shipments next week.

“Like other communities, we will wait our turn and remain vigilant in following all health protocols to stop the spread until everyone is immunized,” Sorensen said.

The Emergent Biosolutions facility in Baltimore was recently cited by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for violations including cleaning and sterilization failures, the potential for cross-contamination and failure to follow required protocols.

Health Canada had already cleared 1.5 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine made at the facility, but did not think the Canadian J&J doses had any connection to that plant.

Health Canada now says the drug substance that makes up part of the J&J vaccine was actually produced there and then shipped elsewhere for the vaccines to be completed.

Word of the delay came hours before a number of COVID-19 hot spots reported continued high case counts and troubling virus-related hospitalization rates, though there were signs of hope in some jurisdictions.

While Ontario recorded 900 patients in its intensive care units for the first time since the onset of the pandemic, overall hospitalizations dipped slightly to 2,152. The province recorded 3,369 new infections.

Public health experts in that province also called for urgent action after an independent commission’s report on the long-term care sector detailed devastating failures and found the province was ill-equipped to face COVID-19.

Hospitalizations also declined in Quebec for the fourth straight day, with the province reporting 578 patients seeking treatment for COVID-19. The province also added 1,101 new infections to its overall tally.

Nova Scotia recorded a single-day high for new cases with 148, though Premier Iain Rankin had warned residents of an impending spike as provincial laboratories work their way through a testing backlog.

Elsewhere in Atlantic Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador reported five new cases. New Brunswick counted 18, of which a dozen were in the Edmunston region where a lockdown was partially lifted this week.

Alberta’s COVID-19 case numbers also continued to soar with an additional 2,433 infections, marking the third straight day that cases breached 2,000.

Manitoba counted 273 infections and Saskatchewan wasn’t far behind with 262.

The J&J vaccine has not been administered in Canada so far, and the National Advisory Committee on Immunization hasn’t yet provided guidance on how they think it should be used.

However, several provinces already made plans for the expected doses, including Alberta, where Premier Jason Kenney said they would be directed to hot spots.

Quebec’s public health director Horacio Arruda said he expected the 67,000 doses of J&J vaccine destined for the province would only be given to people over 45, same as for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said last Monday officials hadn’t finalized plans but were looking at targeting certain populations with the doses.

“This is a single dose vaccine and it’s fridge stable once it’s been thawed and repackaged and shipped to us, so that gives us some flexibility in targeting certain populations, particularly people who may be challenging to find for Dose 2,” Henry said last Monday.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, repeated calls to follow public health measures even if you have received a COVID-19 shot.

“Regardless of vaccination status, as infection rates remain high, it is essential that we all continue to follow public health advice and keep up with individual precautions to help stop the rapid spread of COVID-19 in our communities,” she said in a tweet.

Amy Smart, The Canadian Press

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Interfor’s Castlegar mill is getting $35 million in upgrades. Photo by: John Boivin
Interfor to invest $35 million at Castlegar mill

Project will enhance productivity and competitiveness

A medical worker prepares vials of the COVID-19 vaccines, Chinese Sinopharm, left, Sputnik V, center, and Pfizer at a vaccine centre, in the Usce shopping mall in Belgrade, Serbia, Thursday, May 6, 2021. Serbian authorities are looking for incentives for people to boost vaccination that has slowed down in recent weeks amid widespread anti-vaccination and conspiracy theories in the Balkan nation. The government has also promised a payment of around 25 euros to everyone who gets vaccinated by the end of May. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
38 new COVID-19 cases, more than 335k vaccines administered in Interior Health

Interior Health also to start targeted vaccinations in high transmission neighbourhoods

FILE PHOTO
Second doses of COVID-19 vaccine will be available, as AstraZeneca supply runs low: Interior Health

Province expecting large volumes of Pfizer BioNTech as age-based cohort immunization program ramps up

Greg Nesteroff and Eric Brighton, the historians behind popular Facebook page Lost Kootenays, are set to release a book of the same name and have just unveiled its cover showing the ghostly Hotel in Slocan City shortly before its 1953 demolition. Photo courtesy of Greg Nesteroff and Eric Brighton.
Popular historical Facebook page Lost Kootenays set to release book

128-page hard copy documenting history of East and West Kootenays coming this fall

Paul Chung is working as an early childhood educator at Cornerstone Children’s Centre in Nelson. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
Immigration pilot targets hard-to-fill jobs in West Kootenay

Program helps newcomers get permanent residency status in rural areas

Four homes in Johnson Flats were at serious risk of falling into a neighbourhood section of the Kettle River, according to capital project manager Justin Dinsdale. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Grand Forks shields riverside homes against erosion

Crews have built a modified dike along a section of the Kettle River in Johnson Flats

Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid (97) celebrates his 100th point this season with Leon Draisaitl (29) against the Vancouver Canucks during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, May 8, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Edmonton superstar McDavid hits 100-point mark as Oilers edge Canucks 4-3

NHL scoring leader needs just 53 games to reach century mark

Nuns of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, carry some of her relics during a vigil of prayer in preparation for the canonization of Mother Teresa in the St. John in Latheran Basilica at the Vatican, Friday, Sept. 2, 2016. In which city did she do much of her charitable work? (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
QUIZ: How much do you know about these motherhood issues?

In honour of Mother’s Day, take this 10-question quiz

A map showing where the most number of cases were recorded from April 23 to 29. This map, revealing a breakdown of infections by neighborhood, was pulled from a data package leaked to the Vancouver Sun last week (and independently verified).
36 Abbotsford schools flagged for COVID-19 exposures in the last 2 weeks, shattering record

Clearbrook Elementary recorded an ‘exposure’ on all 11 school days

Canada’s chief public health officer is reminding Canadians even those who are fully vaccinated are not immune from transmitting the COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns full vaccination does not equal full protection from COVID-19

Post-inoculation, Theresa Tam says the risk of asymptomatic infection and transmission is far lower but not obsolete

The dash cam footage, taken May 7 at 8:18 a.m. belonged to the driver of a southbound vehicle that recently travelled out of the tunnel. (Reddit/Screen grab)
VIDEO: Dash cam captures dramatic rollover crash on Highway 99

Only one person sustained injuries from the collision, says B.C. Ambulance Services

Chevy stranded on a ledge above a rocky canyon at Mimi Falls near Logan Lake, April 28, 2021. (Photo credit: Margot Wikjord)
Police officer and fire chief team up in risky rescue of stranded dog near Logan Lake

Chevy, a rescue dog, needed rescuing again after getting stuck on a ledge above rocky canyon

Police were on the scene of a fatal shooting in Abbotsford. (Black Press Media files)
B.C. government to give more than $8 million for programs to curb gang violence

221 not-for-profit projects led by local governments and school districts among others will receive a one-time grant

Most Read