Health Canada has authorized the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for use in people age 18 or older, the regulatory agency said today (December 23).
The vaccine is the second COVID-19 vaccine to be approved for use in Canada.
Federal health officials authorized the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine on December 9.
As of December 22, vaccinations had begun in all five of B.C.'s regional health authorities and the province has vaccinated 4,108 long-term care and health-care workers since beginning on December 15.
The Moderna vaccine requires two doses given one month apart.
Health Canada said that, based on clinical trials at 99 sites across the United States, the vaccine efficacy was found to be 94.1 percent in people who previously did not have COVID-19 two weeks after the second dose. It was 86.4 percent effective in people 65 and older.
“There were no important safety issues identified and no life-threatening adverse events (AEs) or deaths related to the vaccine,” Health Canada said, adding the shot “was safe and well-tolerated in participants and within demographic subgroups based on age, sex, and race/ethnicity”.
Massachusetts-based Moderna is continuing to study the vaccine to understand the long-term safety and efficacy of the doses. The company is also conducting additional vaccine studies in children from 12 years of age and older.
Ottawa has signed a deal with Moderna to receive 168,000 vaccines by the end of this month. The federal government is coordinating vaccine distribution, shipping doses to provinces on a per capita basis.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said Moderna vaccine shipments are expected to arrive in Canada within 48 hours of approval.
During a press briefing in Ottawa, the prime minister said Canada will receive an additional 250,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine in January for a total of 751,000.
Trudeau added the country is on track to receive 1.2 million shots of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines by January 30.
The Pfizer vaccine must be stored at ultra-low temperatures, making it tricky to transport. The province has decided not to transport longterm care residents to vaccine sites for safety reasons.
“Today’s authorization is a critical step in ensuring additional COVID-19 vaccines are available to all Canadians in all parts of the country,” Health Canada said in a statement. “The different storage and handling requirements of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine mean that it can be distributed to isolated and remote communities, including the territories.”
With files from the Georgia Straight.