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Canada could decide on Pfizer coronavirus vaccine within next week, official says

Canada is poised to make a decision on Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine around the same time that the FDA is expected to announce its verdict, a senior health official told media on Thursday. The country is currently reviewing vaccine data from Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson and Johnson.

“It’s a bit difficult to say exactly the day, because we’re still getting, as we said, information submitted by the company,” Dr. Supriya Sharma, chief medical adviser to Health Canada’s deputy minister, told CBC Radio. “But things have been progressing really well, and we’re expecting within the next week to 10 days to be making a final decision.”

On Wednesday, Health Canada issued a statement regarding the U.K.’s swift approval of Pfizer’s vaccine, which leapfrogged the EU’s formal review process in order to make it temporarily available to its citizens. The U.K.’s review process included less data than what the other agencies are considering.

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“Health Canada is aware that the UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency has issued a temporary authorization for temporary limited supply of its first COVID-19 vaccine, manufactured by Pfizer/BioNTech,” the statement said. “Health Canada’s independent review of this vaccine is ongoing, and is expected to be completed soon.”

The statement said the country is working with other countries’ regulators to share information regarding the data currently under review.

“A vaccine would only be authorized in Canada following the completion of an independent review process assessing its safety, efficacy and quality,” the statement continued.  

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Pfizer and the Canadian government reached a deal in August to deliver coronavirus vaccines over the course of 2021 pending health agency approval. Health Canada has been reviewing the companies’ submitted data on a rolling basis since Oct. 9.

As of Thursday, the country was tracking more than 67,500 active cases of the virus. Officials attributed the spread to both community transmission and ongoing outbreaks at long-term care homes and congregate living settings and hospitals.

“Canada needs a collective effort, from individuals and public health authorities, to support and sustain the response through to the end of the pandemic, while balancing the health, social and economic consequences,” Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said in a statement on Thursday. “Given the continued rapid growth of the pandemic, there is an urgent need for everyone to take individual actions to not only protect ourselves, but also our populations and communities at high risk.”