The federal government released an updated vaccination timeline on Thursday, providing a massive shot in the arm for the prospect of a 2021 CFL season.
According to a report by CTV’s Rachel Aiello, the new model projects 14.5 million Canadians will get the the approved Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna shots before the end of June. Those numbers could skyrocket to 24.5 million if vaccines from AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, and Novavax currently under review from Health Canada receive regulatory approval.
The announcement is music to the ears of many Canadians concerned by the slow rollout of vaccines, a process that has been plagued by delivery delays and dose shortages in recent weeks. While just three million Canadians are expected to receive shots by the end of March, anywhere between 38 and 64 percent of the population will get their shots by the summer.
Phase Two of the vaccination rollout is expected to begin in April, when a massive shipment of vaccines is slated to arrive. Should only the two currently approved vaccines be used, the Canadian government expects to vaccinate all citizens by September. Should others be given the green light, Canada would have enough shots to vaccinate 79 million people, twice the population.
While the federal optimism is heartening, the distribution of the vaccine will be left to the provinces, with each projecting different timelines.
“In preparation for this large scale ramp up, the vaccine national operations center continues to work closely with provinces and territories and stakeholders to ensure that they have capacity and capability to keep pace with increasing shipment size of authorized COVID-19 vaccines,” Major General Dany Fortin said as part of the announcement.
The CFL unveiled its 2021 schedule back in November but has yet to indicate the likelihood of it going forward as planned. The pre-season is scheduled to begin on Sunday, May 23, while the regular season is slated to get underway on Thursday, June 10, just prior to the end of the vaccination timeline shared Thursday.
Commissioner Randy Ambrosie has promised plenty of football in 2021, but a delayed start to the season to better match the vaccination timeline remains on the table. On the same day as the federal government unveiled their projection, Ambrosie told Postmedia’s Dan Barnes he remained firm on playing but flexible on the timeline.
“We’re going to play a full season. But we’re also going to have the ability to be flexible and that’s the other side of this. You have to be adaptable and flexible according to whatever circumstances come our way,” Ambrosie explained.
“So we are full throttle on our plans for a full season but every element of every dimension of the plan is being reviewed through the lens of how will we be able to adapt to the circumstances that we find at the time when decisions need to be made.”
A start date later in the summer could allow stadiums to be at near capacity, particularly if more vaccine candidates are approved. In the meantime, the league started meeting with its players’ association this past week to begin developing a return-to-play plan for 2021.
Nothing is certain, but CFL stakeholders continue to hope revenue is just a prick away.