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Moderna vaccine approved: What we know about side effects, ingredients and doses

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: Health Canada official discusses potential side effects of Pfizer vaccine' Coronavirus: Health Canada official discusses potential side effects of Pfizer vaccine
WATCH: Coronavirus — Health Canada official discusses potential side effects of Pfizer vaccine – Dec 9, 2020

Canada has approved Moderna’s novel coronavirus vaccine.

Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada’s chief medical adviser, says the country will receive up to 168,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine before the end of December, providing hope that the country will be able to begin transitioning back to some semblance of normal after a pandemic that has killed more than 1.7 million worldwide people so far.

Here’s what we know about the vaccine’s doses, side effects and ingredients.

Read more: Canada approves Moderna coronavirus vaccine, 1st doses to arrive in ‘coming days’

How to administer the doses

The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is a two-dose series given approximately one month apart through a muscle injection. The doses inject a molecule called mRNA, which includes instructions for the body on how to produce antibodies to fight COVID-19, into a person’s upper arm.

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Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Sharma said the first dose of Moderna’s vaccine is expected to achieve around 80 per cent immunity to the virus, followed by a second dose 28 days later.

She said the immunity is expected to last for a “significant period of time” after both shots have been given, however, she added that “we wouldn’t recommend that there be a significant delay in that second dose.”

“We haven’t seen anything in the evidence that would show that there would be a significant decrease in immunity if that is delayed for a few weeks,” she said.

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“But again, we really don’t have the data to be able to say that, or to confirm that one way or the other.”

Moderna’s vaccine is more widely accessible than its competitor, Pfizer and BioNtech’s, she noted. It can be stored in regular freezers, as opposed to the -70 C refrigerators needed to safely store the Pfizer vaccine.

The vaccine has been authorized for use for Canadians aged 18 and older, but the Sharma said the federal government is currently conducting additional studies in children from 12 years of age and older.

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: Health Canada says people allergic to any Pfizer vaccine ingredient should avoid use' Coronavirus: Health Canada says people allergic to any Pfizer vaccine ingredient should avoid use
Coronavirus: Health Canada says people allergic to any Pfizer vaccine ingredient should avoid use – Dec 9, 2020

Side effects

All vaccines can cause side effects, although Health Canada says most from Moderna’s vaccine are expected to be mild and shouldn’t last very long.

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These include pain or swelling where the vaccine was injected, tiredness, headaches, muscle aches and stiffness, chills, fever, nausea or vomiting, and enlarged lymph nodes.

Signs of an allergic reaction will include hives, difficulty breathing and a swollen tongue, face or throat. Health Canada has advised anyone who believes they may be experiencing an allergic reaction to get medical attention “immediately.”

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: Canada to receive up to 168,000 doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine before year’s end' Coronavirus: Canada to receive up to 168,000 doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine before year’s end
Coronavirus: Canada to receive up to 168,000 doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine before year’s end – Dec 23, 2020

What’s in the vaccine?

A full list of the vaccine’s ingredients:

  • Messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA)
  • 1,2-distearoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (DSPC)
  • Acetic acid (also known as ethanoic acid)
  • Cholesterol
  • PEG2000 DMG (1,2-dimyristoyl-rac-glycerol,methoxy-polyethyleneglycol)
  • Lipid SM-102
  • Sodium acetate (a type of organic sodium salt)
  • Sucrose (a common sugar)
  • Tromethamine
  • Tromethamine hydrochloride
  • Water for injection

The federal government is advising anyone allergic to the “active substance” or any of the vaccine’s ingredients to take a pass on these doses and opt for the Pfizer vaccine instead.

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Any Canadians who may have an allergy or are unsure of whether they fall into a risk group is encouraged to consult with a doctor on their vaccine options.

“If you have an allergy, a serious allergy, if you’ve had a serious allergy to a vaccine in the past or obviously if you have an allergy to this vaccine or… to any of the components of this vaccine, then you should not get it,” said Sharma.