Federal health officials have said that although COVID-19 vaccines protect against the virus, data does not exist on how well they prevent transmission.
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, issued a statement on Sunday intended to address increasing misinformation surrounding COVID-19.
Following Health Canada’s approval of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate, Tam urged Canadians to continue to follow public health measures in the coming months.
“While the vaccine offers protection against disease, data does not yet exist on prevention of transmission – further reason to maintain our collective efforts,” she said.
Tam called the vaccine’s authorization a “historical” step in moving forward through the pandemic, but cautioned that the news does not change Canada’s current situation. The country is still experiencing “high COVID-19 infection rates,” she said.
Health Canada approved Pfizer’s vaccine candidate on December 9, and immunizations are expected to start as early as December 15. Up to 249,000 doses are expected to be delivered before the end of the year.
Tam said that mild side effects, such as redness and swelling at the injection site, are common after a vaccine, including those used against COVID-19.
“In most instances, these effects resolve quickly and completely,” she said. “However, it is also possible for someone to have a serious adverse reaction to a vaccine. The chances of this are extremely rare — generally less than one in a million.”
Ahead of the vaccine’s rollout next week, the Public Health Agency of Canada has launched a Vaccine Injury Support Program to assist those who have a serious adverse reaction to an approved vaccine.
“Health Canada has a rigorous regulatory review process that evaluates vaccine safety and efficacy in preventing the diseases they target and whether the benefits of the vaccines outweigh the risks,” Tam said.
Canada has deals with seven vaccine manufacturers, including Pfizer, to procure up to 194 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines. Health officials have the option to purchase an additional 220 million doses if need be.
To date, Canada has seen 454,852 COVID-19 cases and 13,350 deaths. Federal health officials have warned that if we don’t limit our daily contacts, the country could see up to 577,000 cases and 14,920 deaths by Christmas.