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'We're ready to get doses rolling:' Health Canada approves AstraZeneca vaccine

Last Updated Feb 26, 2021 at 7:08 pm EDT

Health Canada has approved AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine.

The shot is the third to be given the green light for use in the country, following vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

The country has pre-ordered 20 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which was co-developed by researchers at the University of Oxford.

After completing their rigorous and independent review process, Health Canada has approved AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine – and we’ve already secured millions of doses for people across the country,” said Trudeau on Friday.

“Canada now has 3 vaccines approved for use in our fight against COVID-19.”

It 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.

“It means more people vaccinated and sooner,” Trudeau said. “Because for AstraZeneca, like we were for Pfizer and Moderna, we’re ready to get doses rolling.”

Ontario Premier Doug Ford says the approval is great news for the province.

“I think it’s the best news we’ve heard in a long time,” said Ford. “The two questions we need answered is when we are getting it and how much we are getting.”

The AstraZeneca shot is a two-dose vaccine that can be refrigerated which makes it easier to handle than the shots from Pfizer and Moderna, which must be kept frozen.

In Canada, federal health officials provided an updated vaccine forecast last week, estimating that by the time summer arrives the country could see over half of its residents inoculated.

“Here is the bottom line. With Pfizer, Moderna, and now AstraZeneca, Canada will get to more than six-and-a-half million doses by the end of March,” Trudeau said.

“There will be tens of millions more doses to come between April and June.”

RELATED: Pfizer, Moderna executives expect vaccine shipments to triple in weeks ahead

Best-case forecasts considered vaccine deliveries from AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, and Novavax, in addition to the already approved Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna shots.

Health Canada continues to review the two other vaccines and the approval of the Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine will likely not come until late February or early March and Novavax are not expected until April.

Earlier this week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) confirmed that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine successfully protects against COVID-19 and is effective in reducing the spread. And on February 26th, U.S. health advisors endorsed the single use Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

The F.D.A. is expected to endorse the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the coming days.

Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine can be refrigerated but only requires a single-dose.

This week Canada received its biggest combined shipment yet of vaccines from both Pfizer and Moderna.

Canada’s deputy chief public health officer said recently that health officials were looking into evidence that a single dose of the Pfizer shot could be as effective as a double dose.

Original data suggested one dose gave around 50 percent more protection against the virus while two doses gave about 95 percent protection.

Health Canada senior medical advisor Doctor Supriya Sharma says while the AstraZeneca vaccine is considered less effective overall than the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, the real measure is how well it prevents serious illness and death.

“I think the key numbers that are important is that if you look across all the clinical trials at the tens of thousands of people that were involved, the number of cases of people that died from COVID-19, that got vaccines, was zero,” Sharma said.

“The number of people that were hospitalized because their COVID-19 disease was so severe was zero.

Experts are now saying that was measured from the moment the vaccine was given instead of waiting two weeks to let the immune system gear up.

With files from the Canadian Press

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