Canada’s review of Pfizer coronavirus vaccine will be completed ‘soon,’ health minister says

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Questions raised about Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout
WATCH: Questions raised about Canada's COVID-19 vaccine rollout – Dec 2, 2020

Health Minister Patty Hajdu said that Canada’s review of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine candidate is “expected to be completed soon,” as news has emerged Wednesday that the U.K. approved the vaccine.

In a tweet on Wednesday, Hajdu said the news out of the U.K. is “encouraging.”

“The news that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has been approved in the U.K. is encouraging. Health Canada’s review of this candidate is ongoing, and is expected to be completed soon,” she said.

“Making sure a COVID-19 vaccine is safe before approving it is Health Canada’s priority, and when a vaccine is ready, Canada will be ready.”

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Coronavirus: Trudeau still vague on specific date of possible COVID-19 vaccine rollout

Her comments echo recent statements from the chief medical adviser at Health Canada.

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Canada has “similar timelines” to the U.S. and Europe for approval of the vaccine being developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, Dr. Supriya Sharma said last week.

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Canada is reviewing Pfizer’s vaccine alongside the United States and Europe, which means the vaccine will likely obtain regulatory approval in Canada at the same time the United States gives the candidate its emergency authorization.

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U.K. becomes first country to approve Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has a meeting on Dec. 10 to consider whether to give that vaccine the go-ahead

“There are multiple things happening at the same time. Health Canada, on the regulatory side, we’re doing our review. The companies that have already finished their clinical trials are working to do their manufacturing. The really complicated part of the vaccine manufacturing process is when they’re doing that scale-up, and they’re doing that now,” Sharma said last week.

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She said the best timeline she can offer is that Canada will likely see a limited rollout of a vaccine in January next year, following the earliest possible regulatory approvals taking place this month.

Two doses of the vaccine are required to inoculate someone against the virus, and they must be administered three weeks apart. Pfizer said last month that the final analysis from its clinical trials indicate that the vaccine is 95 per cent effective. They also said it doesn’t have serious side effects and protects older adults.

Canada has signed an agreement to buy at least 20 million doses from Pfizer, with the first four million slated to arrive in Canada between January and March.

The deal also gives Canada the option to buy another 56 million doses of the vaccine.

Speaking on Tuesday, Procurement Minister Anita Anand said Canada was the fourth country to finalize a deal with Pfizer, having secured the agreement just after the U.S., Britain and Japan.

Canada’s population is just shy of 38 million, meaning the already-signed agreement would eventually secure enough doses to vaccinate a quarter the country — with the option to buy enough to vaccinate the rest.

With files from Sean Boynton and Katie Dangerfield

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