Canada approved its second COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday, with the first doses expected from American pharmaceutical company Moderna this month.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the 168,000 doses of the vaccine will arrive in December, with 40 million doses arriving in stages by the end of 2021.
The Moderna vaccine joins the one from Pfizer which has already been shipped to Canada and is being given to most at-risk Canadians – health workers and residents of nursing homes.
Both vaccines require two doses to be effective. But the Moderna version has one big plus – it can be stored at -20 C, whereas the Pfizer vaccine needs to be kept at between -60 C and -80 C.
The -20 C temperature means the Moderna vaccine can be more easily delivered and stored in remote areas where special freezers are not available.
Also, long-term care home residents can be inoculated at bedside.
“You don’t have to set up a clinic right beside where you have these ultra-cold fridges,” said Dr. Zain Chagla, a McMaster University associate professor and infectious disease expert.
“This [approval of the vaccine] is a critical step in ensuring a COVID-19 vaccine is available to all Canadians in all parts of the country,” Health Canada’s chief medical advisor Dr. Supriya Sharma said at a press conference Wednesday.
“Since many Canadians live outside major urban areas, this vaccine can be used in communities that have not had access to COVID-19 vaccines to date.”
Trudeau said that 250,000 doses would arrive from Pfizer in January, and that will bring the total number from the company to 751,000.
"Between the early doses we have already received and the shipments now scheduled, we're on track to have at least 1.2 million doses from both Pfizer and Moderna delivered by Jan. 31," he added.
It is good news for Canada, since the virus is surging across the country. As of Wednesday, the country had over 530,000 cases and 14,572 deaths.
By Barry Ellsworth