Canada becomes second country to approve Moderna’s COVID-19 shot

OTTAWA: Canada approved Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine on Wednesday (Dec 23), the second country to do so, paving the way for health authorities to step up an inoculation campaign against a worsening second wave.

Earlier this month, Ottawa gave the green light to Pfizer’s vaccine, which authorities have begun administering to priority groups such as health workers and the elderly. So far Canada has received a small fraction of the 76 million doses it needs.

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“After a thorough, independent review of the evidence, it has determined that the Moderna vaccine meets the department’s stringent safety, efficacy and quality requirements,” the federal health ministry said in a statement.

Shares of the Cambridge, Massachusetts based company pared earlier losses after the approval was announced, though they were still trading down 1.5 per cent at US$123.94.

The United States approved the Moderna vaccine last Friday. It needs to be stored and shipped frozen, but does not require the ultra-cold temperatures of the shot Pfizer developed with German partner BioNTech.

“(This means) it can be distributed to isolated and remote communities,” the health ministry said.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Dec 15 that Canada had signed a deal to receive up to 168,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine before the end of December once regulators had given their final approval.

A second wave of the novel coronavirus is sweeping Canada and medical officials in some parts of the country say the health care system is under dangerous strain. Canada has recorded a total of 14,425 deaths and 521,509 cases.

One potential threat is a new more infectious variant of the virus detected in Britain. Canada imposed a 72-hour ban on flights from Britain on Monday and is set to announce later on Wednesday whether that measure will be extended.

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