Canada authorizes Pfizer coronavirus vaccine
The move comes ahead of a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory committee meeting on Thursday, which is expected to lead to U.S. authorization of the vaccine soon after. President Trump has been pressuring the FDA to move quickly, but other experts say it is good that the agency is being thorough.
“Health Canada received Pfizer's submission on October 9, 2020 and after a thorough, independent review of the evidence, Health Canada has determined that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine meets the Department's stringent safety, efficacy and quality requirements for use in Canada,” the agency said in a statement.
Clinical trials have shown Pfizer’s vaccine, which it developed with German firm BioNTech, is 95 percent effective, an extremely high level of efficacy.
Another vaccine, from Moderna and with a similar level of efficacy, is expected to soon follow on its heels and be authorized.
“Canadians can feel confident that the review process was rigorous and that we have strong monitoring systems in place,” Health Canada said, adding it “will closely monitor the safety of the vaccine once it is on the market and will not hesitate to take action if any safety concerns are identified.”
Pfizer and BioNTech said they would supply Canada with a minimum of 20 million doses, and up to 76 million, through 2021.
The array of countries looking to secure scarce supplies of vaccine doses was further thrust into the spotlight upon news this week that the Trump administration passed on an opportunity to buy more Pfizer doses. The administration says it is betting on a range of six different vaccines, not just Pfizer.
BioNTech said it is ready to ship the vaccines to Canada “as soon as we receive the green light from the regulatory authority to start with the distribution."
The United Kingdom began vaccinating people this week, providing images of some of the first people to be immunized against the virus.