Canada rolls out its first COVID-19 vaccines

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Tamara Dus, left, director of University Health Network Safety Services, administers the first Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in Canada to personal support worker Anita Quidangen in Toronto on December 14. Photo courtesy: Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press/AP

(CNN) - A personal support care worker in Toronto became Canada’s first recipient of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine Monday as Canada began distributing its first 30,000 doses across the country.

Anita Quidangen has been a personal support worker for nearly three decades and provincial officials say she has worked tirelessly at the Rekai Centre, one of Toronto’s hard hit long-term care homes.

Applause broke out after Quidangen received her shot, as more health care workers lined up for their vaccinations. It is a mostly symbolic rollout as Canada works to secure vaccines more quickly from Pfizer-BioNTech and other international manufacturers.

Canada says it expects to receive about 249,000 doses of the vaccine before the end of the year but is awaiting at least 20 million doses from Pfizer-BioNTech.

The country completed a "dry-run" of vaccine distribution last week and officials reported no problems providing a timely and secure delivery.

Canada’s doses will be distributed from Pfizer’s European production hubs and not from the US supply of vaccine.

Earlier Monday federal officials say they are continuing to negotiate "hard" to receive as many vaccine doses as possible, as quickly as possible.

“Notably, our portfolio consists of signed agreements with seven vaccine manufacturers that will provide us with access to up to 414 million doses, the most number of doses per capita of any country in the world,” said Anita Anand, Canada minister of procurement and the woman who has led efforts to put together Canada’s vaccine portfolio.

Canada also announced it would spend about $400 million more to help developing countries access testing, therapeutics and vaccines. Federal officials say they have so far contributed more than $800 million dollars in the global effort to help developing countries cope with COVID-19.

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