By Steve Scherer
OTTAWA (Reuters) - Pfizer Inc has agreed to accelerate the delivery of its COVID-19 vaccine to Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Tuesday, a day after health authorities paused the use of the AstraZeneca inoculation for anyone under 55.
Canada has lagged the United States and Britain in getting its nearly 38 million citizens vaccinated, but the federal government says the ramp-up of deliveries and inoculations is underway.
Pfizer/BioNTech SE will deliver 5 million more doses in June than previously expected, Trudeau said. That means 1 million Pfizer doses will be received each week through the end of May, rising to 2 million per week through the end of June.
Combined with deliveries from AstraZeneca Plc and Moderna Inc, Canada now expects a total of 44 million doses by the end of June.
"This would place us in a very good situation to say that by the end of the summer, everyone would have received two doses," Trudeau said at a news conference.
"Depending on the distribution of the vaccines by the provinces, it is possible that many people will have received at least their first dose before the summer starts," he said.
On Monday, Canadian health officials said they would stop offering AstraZeneca's vaccine to people under 55 years of age following reports from Europe of rare but serious blood clots and in some cases death after vaccination, mainly in young women.
Meanwhile, health authorities are wrestling with a new rise in cases driven by the spread of virus variants. Canada has seen 22,900 deaths from COVID-19, and a total of 971,715 cases.
On Monday, British Columbia (BC) halted indoor dining and indoor group fitness classes as case counts hit a daily high. Ontario, Canada's most populous province, is also facing a spike in cases and potential new health restrictions.
Trudeau said he supported BC's move and if other provinces are forced to impose further restrictions, "the federal government will have their backs".
(Reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by Bernadette Baum)