The federal government chose not to exercise an option to buy up to 16 million additional doses of the Moderna vaccine because they would not have arrived until late 2021, CTV News has confirmed.

Procurement Minister Anita Anand’s office said, rather than adding additional doses, her priority is working with Moderna to advance their current delivery schedules for the doses Canada has already secured access to.

“If the Government of Canada exercised the option to acquire the 16 million doses beyond our existing purchase… those 16 million would not have arrived until the end of 2021,” said Anand’s office in a statement. “Therefore, they would not have contributed to Canada’s objective relating to the vaccination of every Canadian who chooses to be vaccinated by the end of September 2021.”

According to the minister’s office, the decision to let the option for the 16 million additional doses expire was guided by advice from the Vaccine Task Force and Canada could still renegotiate with Moderna for additional doses if wanted or needed to.  

Moderna was the second drug company to have their COVID-19 vaccine approved by Health Canada for use on Canadians, the first being Pfizer-BioNTech. 

The federal government has a contract in place with Pfizer to supply a minimum of 20 million doses and up to 76 million. With Moderna, Canada has guaranteed access to 40 million doses, and had the option to add on the additional 16 million, but has opted not to.

If Anand had gone ahead, Canada would be receiving a total 56 million Moderna doses, which has logistically-easier shipping and storage requirements than the Pfizer vaccine. 

Both vaccines — which require two shots per person — have begun to be administered to Canadians, with a total of six million doses set to be distributed by the end of March. However, there continue to be calls from provinces and health officials to speed up the rollout to prioritized groups like health care workers and seniors as the virus continues to spread rapidly. 

The next two vaccines in line for potential Health Canada sign-off are the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson candidates. Canada has plans to secure up to 20 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine candidate; and up to 38 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine candidate.

Canada has signed contracts guaranteeing access to 214 million doses of potential COVID-19 vaccines from seven drug manufacturers: Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline, Novavax, and Medicago.

The federal government still has the option to secure nearly 200 million more doses from these pharmaceutical companies, meaning if all trials pan out the country would have enough vaccine doses to fully immunize every person in this country more than a few times over.

With files from CTV News’ Kevin Gallagher