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Canada can start importing COVID-19 vaccines before approved for use: feds

Last Updated Nov 26, 2020 at 10:43 am PST

FILE - A patient receives a shot in the first-stage safety study clinical trial of a potential vaccine for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

Canada is expecting millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccines in the first quarter of 2021, health officials say

Vulnerable people, frontline workers will be among those who get a COVID-19 vaccine first in Canada

Under emergency orders, Canada can start receiving, storing COVID vaccines before they are officially approved for use

OTTAWA (NEWS 1130) – Nurses, doctors, police officers, and firefighters will be among those first in line to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

Deputy Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Njoo outlined the country’s vaccine rollout on Thursday, confirming Canada is expecting six-million doses of vaccines in the first quarter of 2021.

“We’re doing everything we can to give Canadians access to the safest, most effective COVID-19 vaccines in the world,” Njoo said at the first in a series of weekly briefings on Canada’s vaccination efforts.

The vulnerable will also be among those to get a COVID-19 vaccine first, alongside those working on the frontline, he added.

Under emergency orders, Dr. Supriya Sharma, chief medical advisor to the deputy minister at Health Canada, said the country can start receiving and storing doses before Health Canada has even approved a vaccine for use here

“Those vaccines would only be distributed and they would go through vaccination after Health Canada has authorized it,” she explained.

This prepositioning allows for rapid deployment once that approval is given.

Vaccine approvals

“Health Canada has a rigorous scientific review system in place to ensure vaccines are safe and effective in preventing the disease they target and we will only authorize a vaccine if its benefits clearly outweigh its risks,” Sharma explained.

“Under usual circumstances, Health Canada reviews vaccine submissions after all clinical studies are completed and the full study results are available.”

The timeline for a full review normally can take up to a year, she added, noting the urgent need for a vaccine to fight this coronavirus and the eventual signing of the interim order allowing for “more flexibility to expedite the review and authorization of drugs and vaccines for COVID-19.”

The new process still requires all necessary data is reviewed, Sharma added.

Officials have also confirmed they’re expected to give approval to the three candidates — Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and Moderna — that are well advanced through the review process around the same time as the U.S. and the European Union.

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Canada’s allies say that could come as early as next month.

Ottawa has finalized deals with five of seven vaccine candidate manufacturers to date, meaning the government has the potential to access up to 414-million doses, if needed.

“This provides Canada with flexibility to make future decisions about whether to exercise options,” Arianne Reza, speaking on behalf of Public Services and Procurement Canada, said.

“Of course, any vaccine candidate must first receive Health Canada authorization before it can be administered to Canadians,” Reza affirmed.

She noted that timelines for vaccine delivery to Canada vary by candidate and are “dependent on the company’s clinical trial timeline, results, and subsequent regulatory filing.”

Distribution with help of Armed Forces

Canada has been working with the military to work out the logistics of distributing a vaccine when one is finally available.

“In a country as geographically large as ours, we can expect some logistical challenges ahead. To help anticipate and address any potential challenges, the public health agency is working with the Canadian Armed Forces whose personnel have been integral to our COVID-19 response since the onset of this pandemic,” Njoo said.

The federal government claims Canada is in a good spot for the planned rollout in early 2021, but critics have questioned that timeline, saying Canadians won’t get any vaccines until people in the U.S., Germany, and the U.K. get theirs — because that’s where they’re made.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberal government have come under fire for this anticipated delay, due to a lack of domestic production.