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Canada/Canadian-Media: Health Canada, the Government of Canada's department responsible for the country's federal health policy, overseen by the minister of health, announced Dec 9 its approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine's use in Canada for people over the age of 16 after a two-month review of the company's clinical trial data was completed by the scientists, Health Canada reported.
Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine. Image credit: ContactPharma.com
"The data provided supports favorably the efficacy of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine as well as its safety," the department said in its report authorizing use
"The efficacy of the vaccine was established to be approximately 95 per cent. The vaccine was well tolerated by participants and has no important safety concerns. The benefit-to-risk assessment for Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is considered favorable."
Canada, the third country in the world to authorize the vaccine, after the United Kingdom and Bahrain, is expected to receive 249,000 doses of the two-dose Pfizer vaccine by year's end, primarily earmarked for long-term care home residents and the staff working there, said Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada's deputy chief public health officer on Dec 8.
The safety of vaccine's use in the United States (US) would be decided tomorrow by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
"We expect vaccines to arrive as early as Monday," said Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the military commander leading vaccination logistics at the national operations centre, adding its "totally possible" some Canadians could get their shots by mid-week.
Speaking in question period today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the Pfizer-BioNTech approval a "big deal" and added,
"It's a good news day for Canadians but we are not through this yet. We have a tough winter to go through," said Trudeau but urged Canadians to respect public health measures even as shots start to arrive.
The limited initial quantity of doses should be reserved for vulnerable elderly residents of long-term care and assisted living facilities, retirement homes and chronic care hospitals, and the staff who care for them, said the national advisory committee on immunization (NACI) said last week.
After their immunization is complete, NACI said the next priority group should be all Canadians over the age of 80. The premiers of the provinces are in agreement, said Trudeau that the NACI guidelines should be followed and the most vulnerable should be first in line.
Trudeau is meeting with premiers virtually Thursday, with vaccine distribution, health care funding and improving long-term care facilities on the agenda.