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Canada Canada approves AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine

17:28  26 february  2021
17:28  26 february  2021 Source:   globalnews.ca

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Canada approved Oxford-AstraZeneca's coronavirus vaccine on Friday, making it the third shot officially authorized in the country.

a close up of a bottle: LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 04: A photo illustration of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at Copes pharmacy in Streatham on February 04, 2021 in London, England. A current investigation is underway to determine whether giving people a different second Covid vaccine to their first may provide extra protection, while also alleviating supply pressures. The UK has recently passed the 10 million mark in their first vaccine rollout. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images) © Provided by Global News LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 04: A photo illustration of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at Copes pharmacy in Streatham on February 04, 2021 in London, England. A current investigation is underway to determine whether giving people a different second Covid vaccine to their first may provide extra protection, while also alleviating supply pressures. The UK has recently passed the 10 million mark in their first vaccine rollout. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

The approval by Health Canada follows that of Pfizer and Moderna, both of which also require two doses.

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The AstraZeneca shot is less effective in clinical trials than its rivals' injections — 62 per cent versus high 90s — but offers distinct benefits.

Read more: AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines — where is Canada at on approvals?

One major advantage is in logistics. The shot can be stored and transported at normal refrigerated temperatures, unlike its leading mRNA-based competitors, which require ultra-cold storage.

The authorization sets in motion an agreement for up to 20 million vaccine doses to gradually funnel into Canada, though Canada is not expecting to receive the shots until at least the second quarter of this year.

The delivery schedule for those doses is expected to be confirmed after the vaccine is approved. However, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said earlier this month he believes most of those 20 million doses will be delivered before Canada Day.

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Canada will also receive up to 1.9 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine through the global vaccine-sharing initiative known as COVAX by the end of June.

With Pfizer and Moderna, the first doses were administered within days of Health Canada approval.

Approval slowed

Health Canada has said the vaccine has been "a bit complicated" to review.

One of the reasons is because of a mix-up in how big the doses were during the clinical trials. Some volunteers only received a half dose at first, according to Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada's chief medical adviser.

The age of the trial participants also made it difficult to finalize the rules for how the vaccine is to be used and on whom.

Read more: AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine and the ‘seniors’ question

The first two phases of AstraZeneca's trials did not include people over the age of 65.

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Health Canada has approved the shot for all adults -- anyone 18 years and older. The agency said that while the vaccine was not tested on people over the age of 65, real-world data from countries already using the product suggest it is safe and effective among older age groups.

Studies point to benefits

More recent studies suggest the shot could offer a number of significant benefits. Preliminary findings from Oxford University, co-developer of the vaccine, hint that it may also reduce transmission of the virus and offers strong protection for three months on just a single dose.

So far, makers of all vaccines have said that their shots proved to be highly effective in protecting people from illness caused by the virus, but it was unclear whether the drugs could also suppress transmission of the virus.

It may also be a strong contender in the protection against COVID-19 variants, particularly the B.1.1.7 variant.

The companies have said that its vaccine has similar efficacy against the variant, which first began circulating in the U.K. but has since made a mark on Canada, particularly in Ontario and Alberta.

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  National panel advises against using Oxford-AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine on seniors OTTAWA — A national panel of vaccine experts says provinces should not use the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine on seniors, opening the door for provinces to start vaccinating younger populations with the newly authorized vaccine much earlier than expected. But similar advice initially issued in Europe began to be revisited Monday, with France overturning its earlier decision against using it on seniors, and Germany in the midst of reconsidering it.

However, preliminary data suggests the vaccine offers only “minimal protection against mild or moderate disease” from the B.1.351 variant. This variant was first found in South Africa and is now the dominant form of the coronavirus in that country. The findings caused the country to halt use of the product earlier this month.

Read more: WHO lists AstraZeneca vaccine for emergency use, widening access to countries in need

The study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, has drawn skepticism from Canadian experts, who say it's too premature to come to any conclusions.

Oxford University, co-developer of the vaccine, has said its researchers were in the process of tweaking their product to better protect against the variant.

European issues

AstraZeneca's vaccine is also mired in some political controversy.

A bitter dispute between the drugmaker and the European Union has stirred threats of export controls that could block shipments to non-EU countries, like Canada.

Recently, the company has become embroiled in supply issues with the EU. It was initially reported the drugmaker would not be able to fulfill its second-quarter supply commitment to the EU due to production issues. However, the company later backtracked and insists the promise will be kept.

Video: WHO gives emergency use authorization to 2 versions of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

Canada is set to get its vaccines from factories in Europe.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has maintained that the possible measures from the EU would not hamper Canada's agreements on deliveries. The threat has so far not impacted deliveries from Canada’s other approved vaccines, such as Moderna.

The AstraZeneca vaccine has already been approved in several countries, including the U.K. and the EU. The World Health Organization also gave the shot its approval this month, allowing vaccinations to begin in developing countries.

From a global standpoint, its low cost is also a major advantage. It runs about $4 USD ($5 CAD) per dose.

AstraZeneca, which says it aims to manufacture up to three billion doses in 2021, has pledged to make their product available at cost around the world until at least July.

— with files from Reuters and the Canadian Press

Canada sees 2,812 new COVID-19 cases as country receives first AstraZeneca vaccine shipment .
Health authorities also reported 60 new fatalities related to COVID-19.Health authorities also said 60 more people had died after testing positive for COVID-19.

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