Canada to receive Moderna COVID-19 vaccine doses before year’s end: Trudeau

Canada could have a second vaccine in its arsenal to fight against COVID-19 by as early as next week after  Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Tuesday a new deal to secure Moderna’s vaccine in December.

Moderna’s vaccine has not yet been approved by Health Canada, but officials have said it is close and published research has indicated it is more than 90 per cent effective in preventing people from getting the virus.

Trudeau said Canada could get up to 168,000 doses of Moderna’s vaccine by the end of December, with deliveries beginning within 48 hours of the company receiving approval.

“These doses are part of the guaranteed 40 million doses we have secured and deliveries could begin within 48 hours of regulatory approval.”

Unlike the Pfizer vaccine, which started going into Canadian arms on Monday, Moderna’s vaccine does not require ultra cold storage and is easier to distribute. Pfizer’s vaccine must be stored at temperatures below -75 C; Moderna’s requires only -20C.

Due to the complicated logistics, the Pfizer vaccine was not sent to the Territories this week, but the government plans to ship additional numbers of the Moderna vaccine there as a replacement.

The rest of Moderna’s doses will go to provinces and territories on a per capita basis, just as the Pfizer vaccine did.

Trudeau said he was confident the vaccine rollout plan would reach everyone.

“No one and no community will be left behind. We have a plan to reach everyone who wants a vaccine, no matter where they live,” he said.

After receiving approximately 30,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine this week, Trudeau said the government expected another 200,000 doses next week, filling the bulk of what the company promised to deliver by the end of the year.

Both vaccines require two doses to be fully effective.

The chief medical adviser at Health Canada, Dr. Supriya Sharma, says things “look positive” for the vaccine from the U.S. biotech firm but there are still some outstanding manufacturing documents needed before the decision can be made.

She said the review team spent the weekend poring over those documents, and now all that is left to review is data on the manufacturing plants. Those documents are expected by week’s end and then she’ll know better when the Moderna decision can be issued.

“It does look promising and it does look positive,” said Sharma.

Ongoing reviews of two more vaccines are less certain, with AstraZeneca’s potentially needing more study before Health Canada is ready to make a decision, and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine candidate’s review still in the very early stages.

Program begins

Jo-Anne Miner, a personal support worker at an Ottawa long-term care home, was the first in the city to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine as the national capital rolls out its inoculation program.

The injection came hours before Ontario reported a single-day record of 2,275 new coronavirus cases and 20 more deaths.

Miner is one of thousands of front-line staff and seniors-home residents slated for vaccination across the country this month as doses continue to touch down amid a surging second wave.

“This is will help create a safe space for me, my colleagues, and the residents,” Miner said in a statement from the Ottawa Hospital’s Civic campus, where 3,000 vaccines from Pfizer are sitting in ultra-cold storage — enough for 1,500 people to get the two doses necessary for maximum protection.

Trudeau and Health Minister Patty Hajdu met with long-term care workers at the hospital Tuesday morning to thank them and witness the city’s inaugural inoculations.

They followed historic needle jabs in Toronto, Montreal and Quebec City on Monday after the first doses of the jab arrived in Canada on Sunday.

“It’s very moving, very emotional. I’ve been emotional for two days,” Hajdu told reporters.

“The light is shining, now we can actually see it,” she said.

“This is a good day,” Trudeau added.

Health care workers in Toronto and long-term care residents in Montreal and Quebec City were the first to receive the Pfizer vaccine Monday morning.

Health workers in Manitoba, Alberta and B.C. are set to follow Wednesday and most other provinces intend to start vaccinating priority groups by the weekend.

In Ontario, 134 of its 626 long-term care homes are experiencing coronavirus outbreaks, with 695 residents infected and one new death reported Tuesday, provincial health officials said.

More than half the 2,275 new cases are in Toronto and neighbouring Peel Region.

Quebec reported 1,741 new cases — nearly one-third of them in Montreal — and 39 more deaths on Tuesday.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been approved in several other countries including the United Kingdom, the United States, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is to meet Dec. 17 to discuss Moderna’s application. Health Canada has been reviewing Moderna’s vaccine since October, and Sharma said the final clinical data was provided from the company Friday.

It took only five days from the final delivery of manufacturing data for Pfizer’s vaccine to secure Health Canada approval but Sharma said Moderna’s facilities are not familiar to Health Canada. The manufacturing sites Pfizer is using have been reviewed by Health Canada before.

Sharma said that means there is more uncertainty about how long it might take to go over the data, though it’s possible the Moderna timeline could be similar to Pfizer’s.

Health Canada’s review team uses experts in a variety of areas, from toxicology and pharmacology to infectious diseases and manufacturing practices.

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