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Health Canada approves Moderna COVID-19 vaccine


December 23rd, 2020

The storage requirements of the Moderna vaccine, just approved by Health Canada, are less onerous than those required for Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine.

Up to 168,000 doses expected to arrive in Canada by end of year to bolster vaccination efforts

Health Canada has approved Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine for use in this country, clearing the way for thousands of doses to arrive by month’s end.

The federal department announced the approval on Wednesday after completing a review of the Massachusetts-based biotechnology company’s clinical trial data.

“The data provided supports favourably the efficacy of the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine as well as its safety,” Health Canada said in a notice authorizing use of the vaccine for people over the age of 18.

“There were no important safety issues identified and no life-threatening adverse events (AEs) or deaths related to the vaccine.”

Moderna’s is the second COVID-19 vaccine to be approved by Health Canada.

The department authorized a vaccine made by U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and German biotechnology firm BioNTech on Dec. 9, and it’s already being administered in parts of the country to people in high-priority groups, including health-care workers as well as long-term care workers and residents.

Moderna vaccine easier to store

The Moderna approval means vaccinations can now begin in northern, remote and Indigenous communities, which haven’t seen any doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine because they lack the freezer equipment necessary to safely store it at -70 C.

Moderna’s vaccine, by contrast, can be stored at regular freezer temperatures.

“This authorization is a critical step in ensuring a COVID-19 vaccine is available to all Canadians in all parts of the country,” Dr. Supriya Sharma said at a technical briefing in Ottawa on Wednesday. 

“Since many Canadians live outside major urban areas, this vaccine can be used in communities that haven’t had access to covid 19-vaccines to date.”

Sharma said Canada would receive up to 168,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine before the end of December.

Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said deliveries would begin within 48 hours of Health Canada’s authorization.