COVID-19 vaccine still months away but review team working to speed approvals

COVID-19 vaccine still months away but review team working to speed approvals

OTTAWA — Health Canada is in talks with all of the vaccine developers that signed supply deals with the federal government to kick-start the approval process and get COVID-19 vaccines to Canadians as soon as possible.

In the last two months, Public Services and Procurement Canada has signed deals with the makers of six COVID-19 vaccines, that will see Canada spend more than $1 billion to get guaranteed access to between 20 million and 76 million doses of each one if they are approved.

All have to complete clinical trials and be deemed both safe and effective at preventing or lessening the effect of COVID-19, but before they can be used here, Health Canada also has to decide they meet its standards as well.

Normally the Health Canada review would happen after all trials are over, but Dr. Supriya Sharma, the chief medical adviser at Health Canada, said given the heightened need for a COVID-19 vaccine, Health Canada is trying to get the regulatory process done at the same time as the final trials are being completed.

“We’re still talking about months not weeks in terms of timeline and really the ultimate length of the review depends on the data,” she said.

“It’s always grounded in the scientific assessment.”

Still, she says normally the regulatory process takes more than a year, and with added resources and expedited timelines, she thinks the first vaccine will be approved in Canada in “months, not years.”

Thus far AstraZeneca is the only company that has applied for Canadian approval, submitting the application and its first scientific results on Oct. 2.

“We are in discussions with other companies about whether or not they’re ready to submit as well,” she said.

Five of the six, including AstraZeneca’s candidate, are now in the third and final phase of clinical trials, and most are expecting their results by the end of the year.

AstraZeneca, Moderna, NovaVax, Johnson and Johnson and Pfizer are also in Phase 3 trials, while GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi’s vaccine is in Phase 2.

No vaccine has completed Phase 3 trials yet anywhere in the world.

New vaccines or drugs go through multiple stages of trials on humans, looking first to see if they are safe and cause no serious adverse reactions. Each phase adds more people, with usually fewer than a dozen to start, rising to tens of thousands by Phase 3.

Sharma said the international consensus, with which Health Canada agrees, is that no vaccine will be approved unless it is at least 50 per cent effective at preventing COVID-19.

She said, however, the results of the trials of the most promising vaccines show much higher effectiveness than that.

A recommendation on which Canadians would be prioritized to get vaccinated first is expected in a few weeks from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization.

Ultimately provinces and territories will decide who they will prioritize for the vaccine, as it is provincial and territorial health systems that will run vaccination programs in their jurisdictions.

Sharma said to be effective at slowing the spread of COVID-19, between 60 and 70 per cent of Canadians will need immunity, either naturally because they have had COVID-19, or because of a vaccine.

It is not yet known yet how long immunity lasts for people who have been infected with COVID-19.

This report by The Canadian Press was first publishedOct. 8, 2020.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Cilantro and Chive was voted in the top three in no less than 13 different categories in the 2020 Best of Lacombe Readers Choice Awards. Photo by Megan Roth/Lacombe Express
Cilantro and Chive opening in Red Deer

There will now be two Cilantro and Chive locations. The restaurant announced… Continue reading

People wear face masks as they wait to enter a store in Montreal on October 24, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Canadian provinces hardest hit by COVID-19 reach sobering milestones

MONTREAL — The Canadian provinces hardest hit by the global COVID-19 pandemic… Continue reading

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Federal study details workers hit hardest by tax, benefit system for extra earnings

OTTAWA — Newly released documents show Finance Department officials calculated that workers… Continue reading

Cenovus. (The Canadian Press)
Cenovus to buy Husky Energy in deal valued at $23.6B, company will remain in Alberta

CALGARY — Cenovus Energy Inc. is buying Husky Energy Inc. in an… Continue reading

test tube with the blood test is on the table next to the documents. Positive test for coronavirus covid-19. The concept of fighting a dangerous Chinese disease.
The latest numbers on COVID-19 in Canada for Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020

The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 10:49… Continue reading

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau. (Black Press Media)
VIDEO: One day until B.C. voters go to the polls in snap election defined by pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan’s decision to call an election comes more than a year ahead of schedule and during a pandemic

Alice Kolisnyk, deputy director of the Red Deer Food Bank, says the agency expects an increase in demand as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Every new subscription to the Red Deer Advocate includes a $50 donation to the food bank. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Support the food bank with a subscription to the Red Deer Advocate

The community’s most vulnerable members are always in need of a hand,… Continue reading

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
John Horgan says he will work across party lines to find ideas that work for B.C.

VICTORIA — British Columbia’s election results show a divided province with Liberal… Continue reading

President Donald Trump gestures from the top of the steps of Air Force 1 at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. When people in the United States talk about moving to Canada to escape four more years of Donald Trump, it’s usually either a punchline or a pipe dream. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Susan Walsh
Move to Canada? A pipe dream for some Americans is a parachute for Canadian expats

WASHINGTON, Wash. — When people in the United States talk about moving… Continue reading

The Cogeco logo is seen in Montreal on Thursday, October 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Five things to watch for in the Canadian business world in the coming week

TORONTO — Five things to watch for in the Canadian business world… Continue reading

President Donald Trump, left, and Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden during the second and final presidential debate Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. Stock market investors are breathing a little easier despite potentially facing higher taxes as the possibility of a contested U.S. presidential election appears to be fading, say investment experts. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Patrick Semansky
Markets concerns about contested U.S. election fading with Biden lead in polls

TORONTO — Stock market investors are breathing a little easier despite potentially… Continue reading

(File photo)
Ontario records more than 1,000 new daily COVID-19 cases for first time

Ontario is reporting more than 1,000 mew daily cases of COVID-19 for… Continue reading

Pope Francis delivers his message during the Angelus noon prayer from the window of his studio overlooking St.Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Pope names 13 new cardinals, includes US Archbishop Gregory

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis on Sunday named 13 new cardinals, including… Continue reading

Dave Mercer, President of Unifor Local 2121, overlooks Conception Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador and the Terra Nova floating production vessel that is anchored there on Friday, October 23, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Daly
As N.L.’s oil industry sputters, the emotional toll of the cod moratorium looms large

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Dave Mercer spent the early 1990s roaming around… Continue reading

Most Read