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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Health Canada approves second COVID-19 vaccine

Wednesday, December 23, 2020 @ 3:32 PM | By Ian Burns

Ottawa has authorized the use of a second COVID-19 vaccine in Canada.

The Moderna vaccine was given the green light Dec. 23, the second to be approved in Canada after regulators authorized the Pfizer-BioNtech inoculation Dec. 9. Health Canada’s chief medical officer Dr. Supriya Sharma said Canada will receive up to 168,000 doses of Moderna’s vaccine by the end of December, with more arriving in early January.

“After assessing all the data, we concluded that there was strong evidence that showed the benefits of this vaccine outweigh the potential risks,” she said. “Today’s authorization is one more tool in our toolbox to bring COVID-19 under control.”

Sharma said the move is a critical step in ensuring a COVID-19 vaccine is available in all parts of the country, since it is not required to be stored at ultra low temperatures. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine must be kept at temperatures between -70 and -80 Celsius, and doing that is difficult for remote, northern and Indigenous communities who may not have the freezers which would be required to store it. In contrast, Moderna’s product must be kept at a more manageable -20C, which is roughly the temperature of a regular freezer.

“Since many Canadians live outside major urban areas, this can be used in communities which haven’t had access to COVID-19 vaccines to date,” she said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hailed the approval of the vaccine and said Canada will have at least 1.2 million doses from both Pfizer and Moderna by Jan. 31. But he also warned now is not the time to get complacent about COVID-19.

“This is not the time for Christmas or New Year’s parties. This is the time to continue wearing a mask to keep your distance to avoid gatherings — in other words, please continue to protect those around you,” he said. “There have been times when our grandparents or parents couldn’t be with their families or had to put tradition on hold, but they had faith that better days would come around. This Christmas it is our turn.”

Health Canada has also published a high-level summary of the evidence that it reviewed to support the authorization of the vaccine online. More detailed information will be made available in the coming weeks, including a detailed scientific summary and the full clinical trial data package.

The Moderna vaccine is indicated for use in people 18 years of age or older. The Massachusetts-based biotech company is conducting additional studies in children from 12 years of age and older, and this indication could be revised in the future to include children if the data from these studies supports it.

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