Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at a news conference in Ottawa, Ontario, on November 6, 2020. Source: Reuters.
  • On Wednesday, Canada took a major step towards bringing COVID-19 under control after its national health regulator approved Pfizer’s vaccine
  • Pfizer’s vaccine has already been approved for use in the United Kingdom and Bahrain
  • Canada is now expecting to receive up to 249,000 doses this month, meaning 124,500 can be inoculated since two doses are required a few weeks apart for each person
  • The government says 14 vaccine distribution centres will be established across the country’s largest cities
  • In the United States, scientists from the Food and Drug Administration will meet on Thursday to assess whether Pfizer’s vaccine is sufficiently safe to distribute in America

On Wednesday, Canada took a major step towards bringing COVID-19 under control after its national health regulator approved Pfizer’s vaccine.

The decision comes just days ahead of possible approval in the United States, and follows similar approvals already granted in the United Kingdom and Bahrain.

“This is a critical milestone,” said Dr. Supriya Sharma, chief medical advisor at Health Canada. 

“Canadians can have confidence in our rigorous review process, and that the vaccine was only authorised after a thorough assessment of the evidence demonstrated that it met Canada’s strict standards for safety, efficacy and quality.”

Canada is now expecting to receive up to 249,000 doses of the vaccine – which is the result of a joint effort between Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech – later this month, with initial inoculations to begin in the days thereafter.

This means roughly 124,500 of the most at-risk Canadians will receive the vaccine, since two doses are required a few weeks apart for each person.

Pfizer and BioNTech have said they will supply at least 20 million doses to Canada throughout 2021, and up to 76 million in total. Health Canada’s approval, however, mandates that Pfizer must routinely provide updated information regarding the safety, efficacy and quality of the vaccine.

“It is encouraging to see that our mRNA vaccine is now authorised in Canada. Following U.K. and Bahrain, it is the third country to approve use of our vaccine within a week,” said Sean Marett, BioNTech’s Chief Business and Chief Commercial Officer.

Canada currently has contracts with six other vaccine developers and is reviewing three other vaccines, including one by Moderna, which health officials say could also be approved soon.

The government says 14 distribution centres will be established across the country’s largest cities, with at least one in each province and two in the largest four.

South of the border, U.S. regulators released on Tuesday their first scientific evaluation of the Pfizer vaccine, confirming that it offers a strong level of protection.

Scientists from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will now meet on Thursday, where the agency’s independent advisors will assess whether the evidence is sufficient enough to recommend vaccinating millions of Americans.

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