Canada approves Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine

Up to 249,000 doses are due to arrive before the end of this month

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The Covid-19 vaccine produced by Pfizer and BioNTech was approved for public use by Health Canada regulators on Wednesday, following an expedited review of clinical data.

"The availability of a safe and effective vaccine will reduce the spread and severity of Covid-19 disease and reduce its social and economic consequences," health regulators said.

"The efficacy of the vaccine was established to be approximately 95 per cent, the vaccine was well tolerated by participants and has no important safety concerns. The benefit to risk assessment for Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine is considered favourable," said Health Canada in a statement.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that up to 249,000 doses of the two-dose vaccine would arrive in the country before the end of the year. He said the first shots will be primarily earmarked for long-term care home residents and the staff working there.

In order to alleviate storage complications that may arise from maintaining the minus 70 degree temperature that the vaccine must be stored at, Canada plans to open 14 vaccine delivery sites to distribute the first inoculations.

The vaccine will likely only be given to people who can physically be present at one of the 14 sites, potentially complicating distribution to residents of long-term care homes.

"It's true you cannot move residents very easily from a long-term care centre to a vaccine site," said Canada’s chief public health officer Dr Theresa Tam.

"That's just the reality."

She stated on Tuesday it was a "rapidly evolving situation."

The mass inoculation campaign will be the largest in Canada’s history. Health Canada regulators expect the vaccination campaign to take many months to complete.

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.

Mr Trudeau is meeting with premiers virtually on Thursday to discuss vaccine distribution, healthcare funding and improving long-term care facilities.

A recent surge in cases across many Canadian provinces, including Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec, has prompted a number of regions to reinstate lockdown measures.

Canada’s approval follows that of the UK, which distributed its first doses of the Covid-19 vaccine this week.

Britain's medicine regulator advised on Wednesday that people with a history of significant allergies should not get the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, after two people reported adverse reactions on the first day of the roll-out.

They were among thousands who received the shot on Tuesday.

"As is common with new vaccines, the MHRA (regulator) have advised on a precautionary basis that people with a significant history of allergic reactions do not receive this vaccination, after two people with a history of significant allergic reactions responded adversely yesterday," the medical director of the National Health Service Stephen Powis said.

"Both are recovering well."