Health Canada approves ‘game-changer’ Moderna COVID-19 vaccine

TORONTO — Health Canada has approved the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for use in this country with the first doses expected to be delivered by Christmas.

Moderna’s is the second coronavirus vaccine to get the green light in Canada’s mass immunization effort following the Pfizer-BioNTech shot two weeks ago.

The federal health agency has deemed the Moderna vaccine effective and safe for use on Canadians, which means deliveries of the first set of doses will begin imminently, weeks faster than the original timeline to receive shipments in January. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said Canada will receive up to 168,000 doses of the vaccine this month, with deliveries beginning within 48 hours of approval, as per the government’s contract with the U.S. biotech company.

Moderna has promised 40 million doses to Canada by the end of 2021.

It’s another crucial moment in the fight against the novel coronavirus as each vaccine candidate comes with its own unique set of advantages and barriers. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which is already in the arms of thousands of Canadians, needs to be kept at temperatures between -60 C and -80 C until injection, while the Moderna vaccine can be kept stable at just -20 C.

“The elephant is in the room that the Moderna vaccine is coming and probably the rollout of that vaccine is really going to change the landscape more than anything else,” Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious disease specialist and associate professor at McMaster University, told CTVNews.ca during a phone interview on Wednesday.

“You don’t have to set up a clinic right beside where you have these ultra-cold fridges,” he said. Instead, health-care workers can administer the Moderna vaccine bedside in long-term care homes, he said. And the immunization task force can likely deliver the Moderna shots to small rural hospitals and remote northern regions that couldn’t facilitate the freezer requirements of the Pfizer product.

More Canadians are likely to get the Moderna vaccine than the Pfizer one, he added.

“This is the game-changer vaccine for sure,” he said. “For our long-term strategy for vaccinating all Canadians, the Moderna is probably going to be the workhorse vaccine. The Pfizer will probably be a vaccine in urban centres, in places where they’re able to set up the clinics that can do the Pfizer vaccine.”

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