By David Ljunggren and Steve Scherer
OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canadian health authorities could approve Pfizer Inc’s coronavirus vaccine within the next week, allowing distribution to start in early 2021, medical officials indicated on Thursday.
Although Canada has signed supply deals with seven manufacturers, officials say the first decision is set to be on the vaccine Pfizer developed with German partner BioNTech SE.
“Things have been progressing really well, and we’re expecting within the next week to 10 days to be making a final decision,” Supriya Sharma, chief medical adviser to the top official at the federal health ministry, told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.
Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, Howard Njoo, later told reporters that “certainly we expect it to be a favorable one”.
A second wave is sweeping Canada, setting daily records for the number of new cases. So far, Canada has reported a total of 389,778 cases of COVID-19 and 12,325 deaths.
Quebec, the second most populous of the 10 provinces, on Thursday reversed course and said different households would not be able to mix in homes for Christmas gatherings in hotspots like Montreal.
“We have a limited number of nurses and our nurses are very tired,” premier Francois Legault told reporters. Quebec had previously said those living in the worst hit zones could host two gatherings of up to 10 people each between Dec 24-27.
Njoo said authorities were planning for a total of six million doses of vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna Inc to be administered in the first quarter of 2021. This is enough for three million of Canada’s 38 million population.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told members of his ruling Liberal Party on Tuesday that priority would be given to first responders, workers in long-term care homes, the elderly and members of remote aboriginal communities.
Health Canada is also reviewing vaccine candidates from AstraZeneca Plc and Johnson & Johnson.
(Additional reporting by Allison Martell in Montreal; Editing by Bill Berkrot, David Gregorio and Alexandra Hudson)
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