Update (December 1:29 pm): This post has been updated with information from Doug Ford and Justin Trudeau.
Health Canada has authorized the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for use in people age 18 or older, the regulatory agency said on 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 Wednesday, Ontario vaccinated 5,250 long-term care and health-care workers as part of phase one of the province’s vaccine rollout.
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 per cent in people who previously did not have COVID-19 two weeks after the second dose. It was 86.4 per cent 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.
Ontario to receive 53,000 Modern shots this month: Ford
In a statement, the provincial government said Ontario wil lreceive approximately 53,000 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine this month. The shots are part of thefirst of 40 million doses Canada will receive through its agreement with Moderna.
Ford called the Modern vaccine “a real gamechanger.”
“It does not need to be stored at extremely cold temperatures and is more mobile,” the Premier explained. “This means health staff can administer this vaccine onsite in our long-term care homes, retirement homes, congregate care settings, rural and remote locations, and other places where our most vulnerable populations live. For the first time, we can take the vaccine directly to our priority groups.”
The Pfizer vaccine must be stored at ultra-low temperatures, making it tricky to transport. The province has decided not to transport long-term 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.”
Health-care workers have been going to 19 hospital sites across Ontario to receive shots of the Pfizer vaccine.
Priority groups set to receive vaccines in phase one of Ontario’s vaccination plan include long-term care residents, retirement home residents, health-care workers, caregivers and adults in Indigenous communities.
Ontario reported another 2,408 COVID-19 cases on December 23. A province-wide lockdown, aimed at reducing virus spread and preserving hospital capacity, is due to take effect just after midnight on Boxing Day.
Phase one of the vaccine rollout will continue through March. The second phase of Ontario’s plan will begin in the spring, the government said.