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 just a few days. Around 20 million cans will arrive from AstraZeneca in the spring.
The AstraZeneca vaccine, the first virus-vector-based vaccine for Covid-19 approved in Canada, has encountered some issues. It was found to be ineffective against the variant of the coronavirus, first found in South Africa, and some people reported side effects during the studies.
Health Canada drug approval officials said Friday that some studies indicated that the AstraZeneca vaccine was less effective overall than others, but the sample sizes used were not large enough to draw a strong conclusion. In Germany, however, it is viewed by many as “second-rate” compared to the vaccine developed by German companies BioNTech and Pfizer, and AstraZeneca is avoiding it.