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

The Surrey Board of Trade is calling on the provincial government to implement a temporary paid sick-leave program. (Unsplash.com photo by Kelly Sikkema)
Surrey Board of Trade calls for temporary paid sick-leave program

Reccomendations sent to provincial labour minister, news release notes

North Surrey Sport and Ice Complex. (Photo: larkgroup.com)
North Surrey Sport & Ice Complex earns B.C. facility excellence award

Award is among four presented by BC Recreation and Parks Association

Surrey RCMP officers on scene of a vehicle fire, which is believed to be an arson, in the area of Currie Drive and Grosvenor Road Wednesday afternoon (May 5, 2021). (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
Whalley vehicle fire ‘believed to be an arson’: Surrey RCMP

Police say ‘at this point’ it doesn’t seem to be tied to ongoing violence in the Lower Mainland

Low tide offered plenty of space for people to relax on White Rock's beach Sunday afternoon. (Aaron Hinks photo)
City of White Rock asking outside visitors to stay away

South Surrey residents encouraged to visit, while others urged to stick close to home

Surrey Central SkyTrain Station. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Suspect accused of ‘abhorrent’ assaults at Surrey SkyTrain stations

Transit Police say assaults were on April 9, 14 and 17

Jose Marchand prepares Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination doses at a mobile clinic for members of First Nations and their partners, in Montreal, Friday, April 30, 2021. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization is coming under fire after contradicting the advice Canadians have been receiving for weeks to take the first vaccine against COVID-19 that they’re offered. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Trudeau says he is glad he got AstraZeneca, vaccines are only way out of pandemic

‘The most important thing is to get vaccinated with the first vaccine offered to you’

Ripy Jubbal of Abbotsford has received a 30-month jail sentence for the fraudulent use of credit cards and credit card data. (Facebook photo)
Abbotsford woman sentenced for $80K in fraudulent credit card purchases

Ripy Jubbal and spouse used identities of 19 different victims, court hears

Solar panels on a parking garage at the University of B.C. will be used to separate water into oxygen and hydrogen, the latter captured to supply a vehicle filling station. (UBC video)
UBC parkade project to use solar energy for hydrogen vehicles

Demonstration project gets $5.6M in low-carbon fuel credits

FILE – A student arrives at school as teachers dressed in red participate in a solidarity march to raise awareness about cases of COVID-19 at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. ‘should be able to’ offer 1st dose of COVID vaccine to kids 12+ by end of June: Henry

Health Canada authorized the vaccine for younger teens this morning

A woman in the Harrison Mills area was attacked by a cougar on Tuesday, May 4. B.C. Conservation Officers killed two male cougars in the area; the attack was determined to be predatory in nature. (File photo)
2 cougars killed following attack on woman in Agassiz area

Attack victim remains in hospital in stable condition

A woman wears a face mask and shield to curb the spread of COVID-19 while walking in North Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday, January 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. CDC updates info, acknowledging small respiratory droplets can spread COVID-19

Large droplets, not aerosols had been fixture of public health messaging for many months

A picture of Shirley Ann Soosay was rendered from a postmortem photographer and circulated on social media. (DDP graphic)
B.C. genealogist key to naming murder victim in decades-old California cold case

In July 1980, Shirley Ann Soosay was raped and stabbed to death

Mike Haire, a former vice-principal at W. A. Fraser Middle School in Abbotsford, began court proceedings on Monday, May 3 in New Westminster for two child pornography offences.
Trial paused for former Abbotsford vice-principal charged with child porn

Judge reserves decision on admissibility of evidence against Mike Haire

Most Read