Canada Authorizes AstraZeneca’s Covid Vaccine, the Nation’s Third

Canada’s drug agency on Friday approved the AstraZeneca vaccine, as well as a version of it developed by the Serum Institute of India. The vaccine, which was developed with Oxford University, has not yet been approved for use in the US, but it was key to the rapid introduction of vaccination in the UK.

Adding a third vaccine on top of those offered by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech could help Canada alleviate growing dissatisfaction with the country’s slow pace of vaccination.

“Vaccines will arrive faster and faster,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at a press conference. “We now have a third safe and effective vaccine.”

Mr Trudeau said the government expects to receive approximately 500,000 doses of two million doses of the Serum Institute version of the vaccine known as Covishield in a matter of days. Around 20 million cans will arrive at AstraZeneca from spring onwards.

The AstraZeneca vaccine, the first virus-vector-based inoculation for Covid-19 approved in Canada, has some issues. In studies in South Africa, where a more contagious variant of the virus has dominated, it did not appear to protect people from mild or moderate illnesses, prompting the country to stop using the vaccine.

Health Canada drug approval officials said Friday that while some studies indicated that the AstraZeneca vaccine was less effective overall than others, the sample sizes used were not large enough to draw a strong conclusion. In Germany, however, it is viewed by many as “second-rate” to the vaccine developed by German companies BioNTech and Pfizer, and AstraZeneca is avoiding it.

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