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

Photo: RCMP
Rossland pedestrian dies after being pinned between 2 vehicles

RCMP Sgt. advises that victim services is available for anyone requiring help

Dani Evans with her brother Alex, 9, and George, her buddy dog (a guide dog for children). Photo: Bill Metcalfe
Visually impaired girl walks for Nelson Friends of the Family

Dani Evans is raising money through the month of May

Pharmacist Barbara Violo shows a vile of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. Photo: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Castlegar pharmacy gets additional AstraZeneca vaccines

Two Castlegar pharmacies list appointment openings this week

FILE - In this April 19, 2021, file photo, Keidy Ventura, 17, receives her first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in West New York, N.J. States across the country are dramatically scaling back their COVID-19 vaccine orders as interest in the shots wanes, putting the goal of herd immunity further out of reach. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
5 more deaths, 131 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health over the weekend

Those 18-years and older in high-transmission neighbourhoods can register for the vaccine

Castlegar City Hall. (Photo: Kristen Lawson)
City of Castlegar finance reports for 2020 show revenue losses

Some losses were offset by savings and grants

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about phase two in B.C.’s COVID-19 immunization plan. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
All of B.C. will eventually ease out of COVID-19 restrictions at same time: Henry

People who have received two doses of a vaccine can’t yet return to post-pandemic activities with each other, she says

Winnipeg Jets’ Andrew Copp (9) and Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mike Smith (41) watch an incoming shot during second period NHL action in Winnipeg, Monday, April 26, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Greenslade
‘Very jealous’: Canadian teams can’t take advantage of NHL’s relaxed COVID-19 rules

League eased some tight COVID-19 health and safety protocols over the weekend for fully vaccinated clubs

A map of Huu-ay-aht-owned forestry cutblock. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
B.C. First Nations restrict access to territory in wake of forestry standoffs

Huu-ay-aht set up checkpoints after heated and dangerous incidents on southwest Vancouver Island

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

RCMP are searching for Philip Toner, who is a ‘person of interest’ in the investigation of a suspicious death in Kootenay National Park last week. Photo courtesy BC RCMP.
RCMP identify ‘person of interest’ in Kootenay National Park suspicious death

Police are looking for Philip Toner, who was known to a woman found dead near Radium last week

Vancouver Canucks goaltender Thatcher Demko (35) makes a save on Winnipeg Jets’ Nate Thompson (11) during second period NHL action in Winnipeg, Monday, May 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Greenslade
Vancouver Canucks see NHL playoff hopes dashed despite 3-1 win over Winnipeg

Montreal Canadiens earn final North Division post-season spot

The southern mountain caribou, an iconic species for the Splatsin First Nation, is threatened with extinction, much to the dismay of the First Nation. (Province of B.C. photo)
Okanagan First Nation band concerned over dwindling caribou herd

Southern mountain caribou at risk of extinction, much to dismay of Splatsin First Nation near Enderby

The B.C. legislature went from 85 seats to 87 before the 2017 election, causing a reorganization with curved rows and new desks squeezed in at the back. The next electoral boundary review could see another six seats added. (Black Press files)
B.C. election law could add 6 seats, remove rural protection

North, Kootenays could lose seats as cities gain more

Most Read