OTTAWA — The federal government is expecting to receive more than 2.3 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine this week, as public health officials brace for a potential fourth wave of infections.
Ottawa has already received more than 66 million COVID-19 vaccine doses, enough to fully immunize all eligible Canadians.
As of Tuesday, the federal government had 6.7 million COVID-19 vaccines in its national reserve, an amount that provinces and territories can draw from if they need more doses.
The new COVID-19 vaccine shipments come as Canada's top doctor warns that the country could be headed towards a fourth wave of COVID-19 cases if public health restrictions are lifted before vaccination rates pick up.
Speaking to reporters on Friday, Dr. Theresa Tam said an updated national modelling for the pandemic trajectory suggests that the highly contagious Delta variant of COVID-19 could drive a fourth wave of infections.
"The trajectory will depend on ongoing increase in fully vaccinated coverage and the timing, pace and extent of reopening," Tam said.
"While some resurgence is expected as measures are eased, this updated model shows that if we maintain current levels of community-wide contacts, we would expect to see a modest increase in cases."
Tam said the country could see a high increase of COVID-19 infections if reopening continues quickly before enough people are fully immunized.
"We could expect to see a sharp resurgence by the end of the summer," she said.
She said the new forecast "reaffirms the need to take a cautious approach to relaxing public health measures to remain vigilant and responsive to signs of resurgence and to continue to increase first and second dose vaccine coverage."
Canada reported an average of 640 new cases over the past seven days, she said, which is still 93 per cent lower than the peak of the third wave.
As of Friday, 80.3 per cent of those eligible had received a first dose, while 63.7 per cent are now fully vaccinated.
Tam said the country has made "great progress" on vaccinating those who are eligible over the last month, but there is a need to increase numbers of vaccinated even more.
"This means increasing fully vaccinated coverage above 80 per cent across all age groups and particularly in younger age groups where most of the transmission is occurring."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 2, 2021.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press