The global race to see who would receive the COVID-19 vaccine first now puts Canada ahead of the US.
On Wednesday, Health Canada approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine before the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
When Dr. Supriya Sharma, Senior Medical Advisor to the Deputy Minister, was asked by a reporter if she could explain how Health Canada beat the FDA, she responded, “We’re just better.”
While the response garnered some laughter in the room, she quickly added, “we’re not in a race with any other regulator. What we’re trying to do is beat the virus and working against this virus.”
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Sharma said that Health Canada’s review looked at the same information as any other regulator. But she did note that information can be submitted at different times.
“The commitment that we’ve made is we’re reviewing it in an expeditious way, so while we’re expediting the review, we have not compromised the safety, efficacy and quality,” Sharma said.
“It just so happened we got the last piece of information late last night and people worked at it and were up early this morning to get ready.”
The senior medical advisor added that they’re watching what is happening in the US and will have members of Health Canada and the public health agency listen in on the FDA’s committee deliberations happening tomorrow. But Sharma said there is no new data being shared at the meeting.
Pfizer Canada and BioNTech will supply the Government of Canada a minimum of 20 million doses—and up to 76 million doses—of the vaccine through 2021.
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada would be receiving up to 249,000 doses of Pfizer’s vaccine candidate this month.
Trudeau noted that because the vaccine needs to be stored at -70°C, the distribution of it would be “a logistical challenge.”
Canadian health officials have said they will procure up to 194 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, with the option to purchase an additional 220 million. The first three million will be available in the first quarter of 2021.