A pharmacist prepares a COVID-19 vaccine at Village Green Retirement Campus in Federal Way on Jan. 26. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)

A pharmacist prepares a COVID-19 vaccine at Village Green Retirement Campus in Federal Way on Jan. 26. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)

Canada approves use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine

The country joins more than a dozen others in giving the shot the green light

Health Canada has approved AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, adding a third vaccine to the list available in Canada and potentially speeding up the pace at which Canadians can be vaccinated against the virus.

The vaccine can be used immediately on people over 18, guidance in line with authorizations from the United Kingdom, the European Medicine Agency and the World Health Organization, though several other European countries only allow it to be used on people under the age of 65.

Health Canada’s authorization says the clinical trial data was limited for people over 65, but that blood tests showed seniors did produce COVID-19 antibodies from the vaccine.

Also “real-world evidence and post-market experience” in places the vaccine is already in use show “a potential benefit and no safety concerns” with giving the vaccine to seniors.

“While this is good news, we must continue to do our best to follow public health guidelines,” Health Canada’s chief medical adviser Dr. Supriya Sharma said at a news conference Friday.

“We’re all in this together and need to remember to keep wearing a mask, washing our hands and keeping our physical distance.”

Canada is to get 20 million doses of AstraZeneca between April and September.

The vaccine is administered in two doses, anywhere from four and 12 weeks apart, though some data suggests waiting longer between shots is preferable.

Those doses are manufactured in the United States.

Health Canada also authorized the AstraZeneca vaccine that is being made at the Serum Institute of India. The vaccine is the same but was licensed to Serum and is considered to be distinct because of different manufacturing processes.

The federal government has said it is negotiating to get more doses of AstraZeneca from the Serum Institute, in addition to the 20 million coming from the U.S.

Another 1.9 million doses are also expected before the end of June through the international vaccine-sharing program known as COVAX, with the first 500,000 of those potentially arriving before the end of March. Those doses are made in South Korea.

Canada has been criticized for taking doses from COVAX, when it has so many doses coming from private deals with vaccine makers.

AstraZeneca is the most flexible of the vaccines now approved in Canada, able to be shipped and stored in refrigerators, rather than freezers. Open vials can be saved for up to 48 hours in a refrigerator as long as they haven’t been out of the fridge for more than six hours total before being used.

A timeline for deliveries of the AstraZeneca vaccine has yet to be released.

The AstraZeneca vaccine works differently than the other two already in use in Canada.

Both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna use messenger RNA technology, using RNA encoded with the piece of the SARS-CoV-2 virus known as the spike protein. The mRNA trains the body to fight off a COVID-19 infection. Both were about 95 per cent effective at preventing COVID-19 in clinical trials and reports in Canada have said even one dose has prevented illness in more than 80 per cent of long-term care residents and health-care workers.

AstraZeneca is a viral vector vaccine, which takes a cold virus, modifies it so it can’t reproduce itself, and adds the SARs-CoV-2 spike protein. When injected, it too provokes the body to develop infection-fighting antibodies and cells to fight the virus.

Health Canada says it is about 62 per cent effective, with mostly mild and short-lived side-effects like headaches, fatigue and soreness at the injection site.

AstraZeneca will have to submit safety reports.

Health Canada is also reviewing two other vaccines.

Approval of Johnson and Johnson’s vaccine will likely not come until early March and Novavax is not expected until April.

Coronavirusvaccines

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Teresa Hedley and a copy of her book, “What’s Not Allowed? A Family Journey with Autism.” Photo supplied
Comox Library recognizes Autism Awareness Month with presentation by local author

April is World Autism Awareness Month, an annual opportunity to increase understanding… Continue reading

A donated towel warms a merlin chick. Photo supplied
MARS Moment: 2021 shaping up to be a record-setting year for animal rescues

Submitted by Jane Sproull Thomson Special to Black Press With the pandemic,… Continue reading

Comox council will further look at a troublesome traffic area in the Point Holmes area of the town. Photo submitted
Comox council to look at speed calming measures at Point Holmes

“…We are waiting for a problem to happen if we don’t act.”

A 41-person air task force, including 12 members from 407 Long Range Patrol Squadron at 19 Wing Comox, seized more than $3 million CND worth of cocaine as part of Op Caribbe. Photo by Canadian Armed Forces Operations/Facebook
19 Wing Comox crew involved in three-tonne cocaine seizure worth more than $293 million

12 members from 407 Long Range Patrol Squadron involved in Op Caribbe

File photo of Gord Johns during World Oceans Day.
Courtenay-Alberni MP outlines priorities for federal budget

Universal pharmacare, affordable housing and Pacific wild salmon are some of the… Continue reading

Burnaby MLA Raj Chouhan presides as Speaker of the B.C. legislature, which opened it spring session April 12 with a speech from the throne. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C. NDP promises more health care spending, business support in 2021 budget

John Horgan government to ‘carefully return to balanced budgets’

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Restaurant owners Oura and Kymon Giakoumakis visit the PQB News/VI Free Daily studio. (Peter McCully photo)
PODCAST: COVID-19 pandemic hits Island’s food service industry hard

Pair of Vancouver Island restaurant owners share thoughts and advice

A Nanaimo man will serve nine months in jail for the sexual assault of a young girl he admitted to having committed more than 40 years ago. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo man sentenced for sexually abusing girl more than 40 years ago

Man, now 71, gets nine-month sentence for abuse of friend’s daughter

Dr. Bonnie Henry gives her daily media briefing regarding Covid-19 for the province of British Columbia in Victoria, B.C, Monday, December 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. urges people to stay in their neighbourhoods, discourages out-of-household meet-ups

Dr. Bonnie Henry says there should be no travel, even to the next city over

Dr. E. Kwok administers a COVID-19 vaccine to a recipient at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Most Canadians plan to get COVID-19 vaccine, but safety fears drive hesitancy: poll

This comes as confidence in governments is plummeting in provinces being hit hardest by the pandemic

Marathon of Hope runner Terry Fox is shown in a 1981. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/CP)
Terry Fox’s legacy of resilience resonates during COVID-19 crisis, says brother

Fred Fox said his brother’s legacy of resilience has taken on renewed resonance as COVID-19 rages on

A youth was arrested following a car crash on Wallace Street on Saturday, April 10. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Onlookers laugh and jeer as B.C. teen beaten, then forced to strip and walk home

Police arrest older teen, call video shared on social media ‘disturbing’

A lady wears a sticker given out after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count slows after last week’s peak

3,219 new cases since Friday, 18 additional deaths

Most Read