TRENTON, Canada 

Canada announced Friday it is ponying up CAN$9 million for coronavirus research even as the government gets set to distribute large shipments of vaccines across the country. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the funds are earmarked for COVID-19 treatments and will go to four Canadian companies – two in Montreal and another pair in Vancouver.

Trudeau made the announcement while acknowledging that Christmas will be different this year, with many areas under lockdown and more anticipated shortly as the number of virus cases continue to climb in heavily populated areas, including Toronto.

But during a press conference Friday, he also said there was optimism as about 375,000 Canadians are expected to be inoculated with the Pfizer vaccine by Jan. 31.

An initial shipment of 30,000 doses is being administered in Canada and Trudeau said Friday that Pfizer will ship 125,000 doses a week in January to add to a commitment of 249,000 doses this month.

The Pfizer two-dose vaccine is not the only one on the way – 168,000 single-dose Moderna vaccine is expected later in December pending approval by Health Canada.

The logistics of delivering the vaccines are complicated, since Canada is the world’s second largest country but with a small population of 38 million spread over the vast area, with some living in remote northern regions.

“This is the largest immunization campaign our country has ever seen, and I know we have the right (distribution) plan and the expertise we need,” Trudeau said. “But remember, a vaccine in a week or in a month won’t help if you get COVID-19 today.”

As of Friday, Canada had almost 500,000 virus cases, sitting at 497,076, with 13,998 deaths, according to daily figures from Johns Hopkins University of Medicine.

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