Several provinces expanded their COVID-19 vaccination campaigns on Monday as a key vaccine supplier was set to drastically ramp up deliveries.
With shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine expected to roughly double from about one million to two million per week, Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba and Nova Scotia opened access to new age groups.
Quebec and Nova Scotia lowered the age of eligibility for vaccines, while Manitoba announced that all Indigenous adults could get a shot.
Ontario opened vaccine appointments to those 18 and over living in designated hot spots, although some residents reported difficulties in booking a spot.
Minutes after bookings opened at 8 a.m., the provincial site showed an estimated wait of more than an hour, with tens of thousands of users in the queue. By 10 a.m. some 73,000 people had booked, the province’s health minister said.
Christine Elliott said she was happy with how it was going overall and urged those experiencing problems to try again. “You will get an appointment, but I am sorry about the problems people are having now,” Elliott told reporters Monday.
Data from the Public Health Agency of Canada showed that the vaccines appear to offer a high degree of protection from infection as of two weeks after infection.
The agency said Monday that as of April 26, 2,274 people were diagnosed with COVID-19 at least two weeks after getting their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Data suggests about 7.1 million people were 14 or more days past being vaccinated with at least one dose by that date, meaning there were so-called breakthrough infections in about 0.03 per cent of people vaccinated.
Among those infected after vaccination, 203 people ended up in the hospital, and 53 people died.
The agency said that the “percentage of breakthrough cases is small” and that detailed data is not yet available to fully understand the reasons behind them.
“More specialized studies are being done in Canada and other countries to monitor for infection and resulting complications after vaccination, including to assess waning immunity,” the statementread.
The increase in vaccine supply is coming as several provinces are struggling to contain a deadly third wave of the novel coronavirus.
Alberta announced on Sunday it was suspending the spring sitting of the legislature because of record-breaking caseloads that are straining the hospital system, while Nova Scotia remains under a provincewide lockdown until at least May 12.
The Atlantic province reported another 146 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday.
There was better news in Quebec, which announced last week it was easing some public health restrictions amid stable or declining case counts and hospitalizations.
Most elementary students in the Quebec City area returned to in-person classes on Monday morning, while the curfew in Montreal and Laval was pushed back from 8 p.m. to 9:30, beginning Monday night.