The chief medical adviser at Health Canada says things are on track for her department to approve a second vaccine for COVID-19 very soon.
Dr. Supriya Sharma says things “look positive” for the vaccine from U.S. biotech firm Moderna but there are still some outstanding manufacturing documents needed before the decision can be made.
Ongoing reviews of two more vaccines are less certain, with AstraZeneca’s potentially needing more study before Health Canada is ready to make a decision, and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine candidate’s review still in the very early stages.
Health Canada approved the vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech Dec. 9, and the first doses began arriving in Canada Sunday.
Health care workers in Toronto and long-term care residents in Montreal and Quebec City were the first to receive the vaccine Monday morning.
Long-term care workers from an Ottawa care home will be next, as that city rolls out its vaccination program this morning.
Health workers in Manitoba and Alberta are set to follow Wednesday and most other provinces intend to start vaccinating priority groups by the weekend.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has also been approved in several other countries including the United Kingdom, the United States, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is to meet Dec. 17 to discuss Moderna’s application. Health Canada has been reviewing Moderna’s vaccine since October, and Sharma said the final clinical data was provided from the company Friday.
She said the review team spent the weekend poring over those documents, and now all that is left is data on the manufacturing plants. Those documents are expected by week’s end and then she’ll know better when the Moderna decision can be issued.
“It does look promising and it does look positive,” said Sharma.
Pfizer and Moderna together are expected to deliver 60 million doses of vaccine to Canada by next fall, enough to vaccinate 30 million people.
Both Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines require two doses – 21 days apart for Pfizer and 28 days apart for Moderna. However Pfizer’s has much stricter cold-chain requirements that are restricting the places it can be delivered at the moment.
Sharma said with the Pfizer vaccine, a recipient’s immune system generates some protection after the first dose, with maximum immunity in place seven days after the second dose.
Enough doses are to start arriving in April for provinces to expand the vaccination program beyond the initial priority groups. Canada expects to be able to vaccinate every Canadian who wants an inoculation by the end of September 2021.
Photo credit: AP Photo/Hans Pennink, File
News source: The Canadian Press