By David Ljunggren
OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's COVID-19 vaccination campaign is ramping up after earlier supply disruptions and the number of inoculations last week hit a five-week high, officials said on Thursday.
Canada has deals with Pfizer Inc and Moderna Inc, but both companies ran into production problems last month and reduced shipments.
The country trails many other nations in the total number of inoculations and critics accuse Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberal government of bungling the rollout. Ottawa buys the vaccines, while the 10 provinces and three northern territories administer them.
Howard Njoo, Canada's deputy chief public health officer, said more than 240,000 doses were injected last week, the most in more than a month.
"We are seeing positive signs that the rollout is ramping up. ... This is a reflection of greater supply," he told a briefing, saying about 2.9% of Canadians had received at least one dose.
"We expect this percentage to significantly increase throughout March," he added. Canada has so far recorded a total of 21,807 COVID-19 deaths and 855,126 cases.
Major General Dany Fortin, in charge of coordinating the rollout, said a total of 643,000 doses had been distributed this week, the highest amount yet.
Canada says it is still on track to receive a total of 6 million doses from Pfizer and Moderna by the end of March and that anyone who wants a shot can get one by the end of September.
Ontario, the most-populous province, has started to lift some restrictions imposed to combat a second wave of the virus even as experts say case rates are rising again.
"We need to watch our every step. There is no easy path through a minefield," Adalsteinn Brown, co-chair of the province's science advisory panel, told reporters.
(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Additional reporting by Allison Martell in Toronto; Editing by Alistair Bell and Peter Cooney)