Canadian health officials hailed the “critical milestone” a day after the UK became the first country to administer the vaccine.
Canadian health officials have cleared the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, hailing the development as a “critical step” and paving the way for the inoculant to be administered nationwide.
Wednesday’s clearance comes a day after the UK became the first country to start giving the vaccine to the public. Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) is also pending in the United States, with officials saying the first doses could be given as early as next week. The US Food and Drug Administration is due to review its EUA on Thursday. Bahrain has also licensed the vaccine for public use.
“Canadians can be confident that the review process was rigorous and that we have strong surveillance systems in place,” Health Canada, the ministry responsible for the country’s federal health policy, said in a statement. announcing the authorization.
“Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada will closely monitor the safety of the vaccine once it hits the market and will not hesitate to take action if any safety concerns are identified,” the release said. .
Canada is currently set to receive 249,000 doses of the vaccine within the month, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau saying the first shipments are expected next week, with “the most vulnerable populations” receiving the first doses.
Pfizer-BioNTech currently has a contract to deliver at least 20 million doses and up to 76 million doses until 2021. The vaccine is given in two doses, which are given weeks apart.
Canada also has contracts with six other vaccine manufacturers. The government has announced that it will set up 14 distribution centers, with at least one per province.
Canada, with a population of around 38 million, has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks as the cold months set in. Several cities and provinces have reinstated severe lockdown restrictions in hopes of stemming this surge.
New cases daily are more than 10 times what they were during the warmer months. To date, the country has confirmed at least 435,600 cases and more than 12,900 deaths from the disease, according to a count from Johns Hopkins University.
Clinical studies have shown that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is approximately 95% effective.