Health Canada announced the approval of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday, after reviewing the findings from its clinical trials.
“Today’s decision from Health Canada is a historic moment in our collective fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and is a major step towards returning to normalcy in Canada,” President of Pfizer Canada Cole Pinnow said. “We commend Health Canada for its careful and thorough assessment of our COVID-19 vaccine and timely action to help protect Canadians.”
Health Canada indicated that, based on studies with about 44,000 participants, the vaccine proved to be 95% “effective in preventing SARS-CoV2 infection beginning 1 week after the second dose.”
This announcement comes just days after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada will have access to 249,000 doses of the vaccine by the end 2020.
While the approval of a COVID-19 vaccine is good news for Canadians, it also serves as a reminder that equitable access to the vaccine is vital to bringing an end to this pandemic.
Canada has signed agreements with pharmaceutical companies that so far secure up to 414 million doses of possible vaccines — something critics are referring to as “vaccine hoarding.”
Canada has ordered enough to vaccinate its population “five times over,” according to data from Duke University in North Carolina.
Health Canada has authorized Pfizer-BioNTech’s #COVID19 vaccine. After a thorough and independent review of the evidence. Health Canada has determined that the vaccine meets its stringent safety, efficacy and quality requirements. https://t.co/mhFcspCpTi#COVIDvaccinespic.twitter.com/q6xkC27z6i— Health Canada and PHAC (@GovCanHealth) December 9, 2020
The People’s Vaccine Alliance, which includes organizations like Amnesty International, Oxfam, and Global Justice Now, said Wednesday that almost 70 poor countries will only be able to vaccinate 1 in 10 people next year — while rich countries have secured enough vaccines to vaccine three times their populations by the end of 2021.
“No one should be blocked from getting a life-saving vaccine because of the country they live in or the amount of money in their pocket,” Anna Marriott, Oxfam’s health policy manager, said. “But unless something changes dramatically, billions of people around the world will not receive a safe and effective vaccine for COVID-19 for years to come.”
The group is calling on pharmaceutical companies to share their technology and intellectual property with the world to ease the manufacturing process and make vaccines available to everyone in need.
While rich countries account for 14% of the world, they have secured 53% of the most promising vaccines, according to a statement from the People’s Vaccine Alliance.
Minister for International Development Karina Gould has said that it remains unclear how many vaccine candidates purchased will actually work and be approved for market — meaning the overpurchasing acts as a precaution.
She also added that Canada is one of the most notable contributors to the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) Facility, according to the National Post.
Canada has committed $220 million to the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) Facility, which aims to provide equitable access to vaccines to Canadians and people around the world, on top of an additional $220 million to the COVAX Advance Market Commitment, which will go towards purchasing vaccine doses for low- and middle-income countries.
Canada has agreements with seven different pharmaceutical companies that accounts for orders of up to 414 million doses.
“Once a vaccine is approved, it needs to be available and accessible and equitably distributed around the world,” Gould told the National Post. “We recognize that until everyone on the planet is safe from COVID-19, no one is. And we know this is an issue we need to deal with.”