TORONTO/OTTAWA, (Reuters) – Health Canada today approved the COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE, clearing the way for shots to be delivered and administered across the country.
The nation’s first coronavirus vaccine green light comes under a new interim order system that allows for accelerated approval very similar to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s emergency use authorizations.
“The approval of the vaccine is supported by evidence that it is safe, effective and of good quality,” Health Canada said in a statement. The vaccine has initially been authorized for use in people 16 years of age or older.
Canadian officials have said that under their procurement deal with Pfizer, doses would not be shipped to Canada until the vaccine won Health Canada approval.
Canada will start receiving its first doses of Pfizer’s vaccine before the end of December, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Monday.
The UK, on Dec. 2, was first to approve the Pfizer vaccine, which in a large clinical trial was 95% effective at preventing illness.
Pfizer is responsible for shipping its vaccine, which requires ultra-cold storage, to warehouses across Canada.
Canada has a firm order for 20 million doses of the vaccine, enough to inoculate 10 million people, with options to buy up to 56 million more.
For the most part, provincial and territorial health systems will administer the shot, for free, across the country. They will have final say over how to use scarce early supplies in their jurisdictions.
According to preliminary guidance published by the federal government in early November, vulnerable people and those who look after them are high priority, including long-term care residents and some healthcare workers.
Canada has ordered more shots per capita than any other country.