COVID-19 vaccine: Novavax deliveries arrive in Canada

Canada has received its first shipments of the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine, and delivery to the provinces is currently underway, according to the federal government.

In tweeted posted on Thursday, Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) confirmed that the federal government has received 3.2 million doses of Novavax’s Nuvaxovid vaccine, with one million doses already distributed to the provinces and territories based on supply and demand.

In a statement to CTVNews.ca, Health Canada and PHAC said that timelines for when the vaccine will become available for Canadians will depend on each province’s and territory’s immunization program.

The Novavax vaccine differs from the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines in that it is a protein-based vaccine and not an mRNA vaccine.

The two-dose Nuvaxovid vaccine produced by the US biotech firm Novavax showed 90 per cent effectiveness in protecting clinical trial participants from symptomatic COVID-19, and 100 per cent effectiveness in preventing severe disease, according to a press release from the company.

Health Canada authorized the use of the Novavax vaccine on Feb. 17 for people 18 years of age and older. The agency recommends the two doses of the vaccine be given 21 days apart, but the final decision on the amount of time between doses will ultimately be left up to each province and territory.

So far, Novavax is the only protein-based COVID-19 vaccine authorized for use in Canada. Similar protein-based technology is used in hepatitis and influenza vaccines currently on the market.

“The Novavax Nuvaxovid vaccine provides an additional vaccine option for those who want a protein-based vaccine or who are unable to receive mRNA vaccines,” Health Canada and PHAC said in a tweet on Thursday.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said at a technical briefing last month that the Novavax vaccine will be offered to adults in Canada who have so far been unable to get an mRNA vaccine because of an allergy or contraindication, or to those who have been unwilling to get an mRNA vaccine despite widely accepted evidence that it is safe and effective.

In the European Union, where the Novavax vaccine is currently available, demand for the protein-based vaccine has been underwhelming in the early rollout, undermining hopes that it could convince vaccine skeptics to get a shot because it is based on a more conventional technology than the other four vaccines authorized so far in the EU.

Though Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) preferentially recommends mRNA vaccines because they “have a higher efficacy and effectiveness” at preventing serious illness and death, experts say having a range of safe and effective vaccine options available will encourage more Canadians get vaccinated.

With files from Jennifer Ferreira, Reuters.

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