December 15, 2020

Health Canada Authorizes First COVID-19 Vaccine

On December 9, 2020, Canada reached a critical milestone in the fight against the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) that causes COVID-19. Health Canada determined that the Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA vaccine meets the requirements of stringent safety, efficacy, and quality requirements for use of the vaccine in Canada. This decision comes following a thorough, independent review of the evidence. The initial indication of the vaccine is for use in people 16 years of age or older.

The Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA vaccine phase 3 clinical trial involved 44,000 participants who received two doses of the vaccine 21 days apart. The trial demonstrated the vaccine is 95% effective in preventing SARS-CoV-2 infection beginning 1 week after the second dose. The side effects observed in the clinical trials were mild to moderate and common side effects of vaccines. No major safety concerns were identified in the data reviewed.

An mRNA vaccine contains genetic information that instructs the body on how to make a protein, in this case the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein found on the surface of the virus, in order to trigger an immune response. Once triggered, a person’s immune system becomes trained to produce specific antibodies that recognize and attack the virus if a person becomes exposed. An mRNA vaccine does not use the live virus.

Other COVID-19 vaccines are currently in development globally – each vaccine is undertaking different approaches to provide us with immunity against the virus, and some may provide advantages to different groups of people. Following Health Canada approval, it will take several months to vaccinate all Canadians. Additionally, vaccinations will be guided by provincial roll-out plans.

The MS Society of Canada is working with global MS organizations, researchers and healthcare providers to provide more specific advice for COVID-19 vaccinations for people living with MS and will be providing updated information. Individuals with MS are encouraged to speak with their neurologist and healthcare teams about the vaccine.

NOTE: Recently, Britain's medical regulator as a precaution warned people with a history of serious allergic reactions not to get the Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine based on two people that suffered adverse reactions. They are currently reviewing and investigating these cases. Health Canada is warning that people with any allergies to COVID-19 vaccine ingredients should not take it.


Health Canada authorizes first COVID-19 vaccine

Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine: What you should know