Canada approves Pfizer vaccine and plans to begin rollout next week as US awaits decision

Canada has become the third country in the world to approve Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine, leapfrogging the United States in its effort to secure access to the critical drug.

Health Canada announced on its website on Wednesday morning that the two-dose vaccine made by US drugmaker Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech had been granted interim authorization. The approval comes as Canada continues to post record levels of infection from the coronavirus ahead of the Christmas holidays.Trump officials scramble to justify decision not to buy extra Pfizer vaccine dosesRead more

“Canadians can feel confident that the review process was rigorous and that we have strong monitoring systems in place. Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada will closely monitor the safety of the vaccine once it is on the market and will not hesitate to take action if any safety concerns are identified,” Health Canada said in a statement.Advertisement

The vaccine has already been approved by the United Kingdom and Bahrain. Health Canada was able to speed up the regulatory review of the Pfizer vaccine by assessing rolling information throughout the course of the study, rather than waiting until the end of the company’s testing to begin reviewing the findings. Officials in the United States expect approval in the coming days.

Officials hope to begin vaccinating Canadians next week, prioritizing healthcare workers and nursing home staff. Up to 249,000 doses of the vaccine are expected to arrive this month and 4m doses by March.

Canada’s health regulator said the vaccine was for use in people 16 years of age or older, but noted Pfizer-BioNTech was running further clinical trials on children of all age groups and that could change.

With the Christmas holidays approaching, public health officials are pleading with Canadians not to travel or see family as active cases rise above 72,000. In Alberta, the worst-hit province, officials have put new lockdown measures in place as hospitals and ICUs hit capacity.

Canada has purchased 20m doses of that vaccine, which requires people to receive two doses each, and it has the option to buy 56m more.

Health Canada is reviewing three other vaccine candidates, including one from Moderna.

“This is phenomenal news for all Canadians as we take the next step toward ending this pandemic. As soon as vaccines arrive on Ontario soil, we will be ready to deliver and administer them,” Ontario’s premier, Doug Ford, said in a tweet.

Canadia’s prime ministe, Justin Trudeau, said he hopes to have much of the country vaccinated by September.

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