Ontario says it expects to receive approximately 53,000 doses of the newly approved Moderna COVID-19 vaccine by the end this month.
Premier Doug Ford says the new vaccine, which was approved by Health Canada on Wednesday, is a “‘game-changer.”
A spokeswoman for Ontario’s health minister says the province expects to receive the doses next week and they will first be taken to long-term care homes.
She says the province is working with public health units on a plan to start administering the shots in long-term care facilities during the first week of January.
Ford says the Moderna vaccine can be more easily transported than the Pfizer-BioNtech dose – the only other immunization approved by Health Canada – which is why it will be taken to long-term care homes first.
The premier says other priority groups, including Indigenous communities and residents of retirement homes, will also receive the Moderna vaccine soon.
“We are taking another step towards ending this terrible pandemic,” Ford said of the vaccine’s approval in Canada while noting the need for residents to keep heeding public health advice.
“As we await the arrival of more vaccines, I continue to ask all Ontarians to remain vigilant and keep following the public health measures.”
Ontario began administering the Pfizer-BioNtec vaccine to health-care workers on Dec. 14. The government has noted, however, that COVID-19 immunizations aren’t expected to be more broadly available to the general public until April.
The Moderna doses are set to arrive shortly after Ontario enters a provincewide lockdown on Boxing Day in an effort to bring soaring COVID-19 cases under control.
The province’s lockdown that begins Dec. 26 is set to last 28 days for southern Ontario but will lift for northern Ontario on Jan. 9.
It will shutter all non-essential businesses, ban indoor gatherings, close restaurant dining rooms, and see all schools move classes online for the first week of the new year. It also means Ontarians are advised to stay home as much as possible.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcomed the news of the Moderna approval during a news conference in which he also announced that Canada will receive more doses next month of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine than previously expected, after it was approved by Health Canada on Dec. 9.
Between the early doses already in the country, and the shipments now scheduled, Canada should have at least 1.2 million doses from Pfizer and Moderna delivered by Jan. 31, Trudeau said outside his Ottawa home.
“After assessing all the data, we concluded that there was strong evidence that showed the benefits of this vaccine outweigh the potential risks,” Health Canada’s chief medical officer Dr. Supriya Sharma told a news conference in Ottawa.
“Today’s authorization is one more tool in our toolbox to bring COVID-19 under control.”
While the Pfizer vaccine has already started to be distributed in different cities across Canada, Sharma indicated the Moderna inoculation will likely be distributed to more remote communities.
That is because it does not require the same level of extreme-cold storage as the Pfizer version.
“Since many Canadians live outside major urban areas, this vaccine can be used in communities that haven’t had access to COVID-19 vaccines to date,” Sharma said.
The first doses are prioritized for front-line health staff, residents and workers in long-term care, adults in remote Indigenous communities, and seniors over the age of 80 living in the community.
Canada is to get 40 million doses of Moderna’s vaccine in 2021, enough to vaccinate 20 million people, or about two-thirds of the Canadian adult population.
The vaccine is not yet recommended for use on children as tests on adolescents only began in December and tests on children younger than 12 won’t begin until next year.
Moderna will have to continue to provide information to the regulator on the safety of the vaccine, Sharma said.
People with severe allergies have been advised against getting the Pfizer vaccine after several people in the United Kingdom had reactions to the inoculation. Sharma said the same advice is being given for the Moderna inoculation.
Canada’s doses of the Moderna vaccine are being made in Europe.
Two more vaccines are being reviewed by Health Canada, one from AstraZeneca and the other from Johnson and Johnson, Sharma said, but more information is needed before they can be approved.