A nurse holds a phial of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Guy’s Hospital in London, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020, as the U.K. health authorities rolled out a national mass vaccination program. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, Pool)

A nurse holds a phial of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Guy’s Hospital in London, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020, as the U.K. health authorities rolled out a national mass vaccination program. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, Pool)

Health Canada authorizes use of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine

Canada becomes third country after the U.K. and Bahrain to approve the Pfizer vaccine

Canada has become the second country to authorize the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, just days after it was first approved in the U.K. Currently, Health Canada has authorized the vaccine for individuals aged 16 and older.

Canada is expected to get up to 249,000 doses of the vaccine by the end of December, with the first doses scheduled to come within a week of its Wednesday (Dec. 9) approval. Maj. Gen. Dany Fortin, vice president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, said that Pfizer has indicated that vaccines could ship as soon as Friday. A dry run earlier this week showed that it takes about 36 hours from when the vaccine leaves Belgium till it arrives in Canada.

“It’s totally possible by mid-week next week,” Fortin said of when vaccines could begin to be administered.

B.C. is expected to get 4,000 doses out of this first shipments, enough to vaccinate 2,000 people. The news comes as at least 429,035 people have been infected with the virus in Canada and 12,867 have died.

Federal officials are expected to hold a briefing on the rollout and delivery of the vaccine later on Wednesday. The Pfizer vaccine has to be kept at at least -70C until it is within days of use and requires two doses given three weeks apart to reach its promised 95 per cent efficacy. It will be transported by Pfizer to 14 vaccination sites across the country.

Canada has purchased 20 million initial doses of the Pfizer vaccine, with the option to buy up to 76 million in total. The vaccine was authorized by an interim order, which sped up the approval process. Health Canada officials said that process allowed it to receive information to review about the vaccine as it came out.

Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada’s chief medical adviser, said that the “benefits outweigh the risks” for the vaccine.

“The best vaccine is only effective if people agree to take it,” Sharma said, noting that both Pfizer and Health Canada will continue to monitor longer term effects of the vaccine.

“There might be people who are the early adopters, and people who are dead-set against it, but there are also people we call the ‘moveable middle.’”

Sharma noted that Canada is in contact with the U.K. over news of allergic reactions.

“We know that those were allergic reactions that happened quite close to after the individuals got the vaccine,” Sharma said. Both people have recovered, she noted. Pfizer’s clinical trial also had two allergic reactions; one in the placebo group and one in the group that received the vaccine.

“We know that with all vaccines there’s a risk of allergic reaction.”

Sharma said that Health Canada is advising people who have had allergic reactions to the vaccine’s ingredients, whether active or not, should not take the vaccine at this time.

How the vaccine will work

The four current priority groups are Canadians aged 80 and older, long-term care residents and staff, health-care workers and Indigenous peoples. However, immunocompromised people will not be able to get this vaccine, as it has not been tested on them.

The Pfizer shot is an mRNA vaccine designed to teach cells how to make a protein that will trigger an immune response without using the live COVID-19 virus. That immune response will trigger the body to make antibodies which are meant to protect it from catching the virus.

The vaccine will be given in two injected doses, given 21 days apart, of 0.3 millilitres through a syringe. According to Pfizer, its vaccine was about 95 per cent effective following studies in nearly 44,000 participants. The company said that level of immunity is reached at about seven days after the second dose.

According to both Pfizer and Health Canada, there have been “no major safety concerns.” More common side effects include pain at the site of injection, body chills, feeling tired and feeling feverish.

“These are common side effects of vaccines and do not pose a risk to health,” Health Canada said in a statement. The vaccine’s effectiveness is “consistent across age, gender, race and ethnicity demographics.”

Health Canada is also currently reviewing three other vaccines from Moderna, AstraZeneca and Janssen Inc. (owned by Johnson & Johnson). Moderna is expected to be the next vaccine to be approved in Canada, although health officials were unable to identify an exact date.

READ MORE: 4,000 high-risk British Columbians to receive 1st dose of COVID-19 vaccine next week: Horgan

READ MORE: Canada to get 249,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine in December, Trudeau says

READ MORE: ‘Route out’ of pandemic: 90-year-old woman receives UK’s 1st COVID-19 vaccine dose


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirusvaccines

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Saanich police officers were one group of dozens that submitted dance clips to the Greater Victoria Festival Society, to help create the Dance Across Victoria video montage. (Youtube/Screenshot)
WATCH: Saanich police, Victoria mayor bust some moves in new Dance Across Victoria video

Montage features submitted dance clips from across Greater Victoria

Saanich’s Malia Brodie competed in the Vancouver qualifiers for the 2020 National Championships. (Photo by BC Sport Karate Snaps)
PHOTOS: Saanich teen awarded $1,800 Karate Canada bursary to pursue officiant certification

Malia Brodie, 18, has black belt, nearly 15 years experience in karate

Former Oak Bay High Grade 12 student Brandon Kip plays the $100,000 Steinway piano in the Dave Dunnet Theatre. (Black Press Media file photo)
Oak Bay High Alumni Association passes torch to new president

The association has given back more than $70,000 in its 16 years

After more than a year, open forums will resume at a Saanich committee of the whole meeting on April 19 with up to five residents having the chance to speak for three minutes each about any district-related matter. (Black Press Media file photo)
Public input resumes at Saanich council following lengthy suspension due to pandemic

Up to five residents can present by phone for up to three minutes starting April 19

Sooke pickleball enthusiasts are rallying for funds to resurface the local outdoor courts. The group will come before council on April 13, where they will request for $7,000 towards the resurfacing project. (Photo from Sooke Pickleball Facebook page)
Sooke pickleball enthusiasts push for outdoor court resurfacing

Group to come before Sooke council April 13, asking for $7,000 grant

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday December 8, 2020 in Ottawa. The stage is set for arguably the most important federal budget in recent memory, as the Liberal government prepares to unveil its plan for Canada’s post-pandemic recovery even as a third wave of COVID-19 rages across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Election reticence expected to temper political battle over federal budget

Opposition parties have laid out their own demands in the weeks leading up to the budget

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to open up COVID vaccine registration to all B.C. residents 18+ in April

Registration does not equate to being able to book an appointment

Pat Kauwell, a semi-retired construction manager, lives in his fifth-wheel trailer on Maxey Road because that’s what he can afford on his pension, but a Regional District of Nanaimo bylaw prohibits using RVs as permanent dwellings, leaving Kauwell and others like him with few affordable housing options. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Rules against RV living hard on Island residents caught in housing crunch

Regional District of Nanaimo bylaw forcing pensioner to move RV he calls home off private farm land

(Black Press file photo).
UPDATED: Multiple stabbings at Vancouver Island bush party

Three youths hospitalized after an assault in Comox

Selina Robinson is shown in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday November 17, 2017. British Columbia’s finance minister says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat government’s first budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will table Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. finance minister to table historic pandemic-challenged deficit budget

Budget aims to take care of people during pandemic while preparing for post-COVID-19 recovery, Robinson said

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Lord Tweedsmuir’s Tremmel States-Jones jumps a player and the goal line to score a touchdown against the Kelowna Owls in 2019. The face of high school football, along with a majority of other high school sports, could significantly change if a new governance proposal is passed at the B.C. School Sports AGM May 1. (Malin Jordan)
Power struggle: New governance model proposed for B.C. high school sports

Most commissions are against the new model, but B.C. School Sports (BCSS) and its board is in favour

Most Read