As It Happens·Q&A

Pfizer says Canada will get enough doses for everyone after vaccine cleared for kids 12 and up

Pfizer's Canada's vaccine lead says Canada will get enough doses of the vaccine in the coming months for everyone who needs it — including children aged 12 and up.  

Health Canada has authorized Pfizer vaccine for adolescents 12 to 15 years old

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been approved for use on adolescents age 12 to 15, Health Canada said Wednesday. (Getty Images)

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Pfizer Canada's vaccine lead says Canada will get enough doses of the vaccine in the coming months for everyone who needs it — including children aged 12 and up.  

On Wednesday, Health Canada cleared the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for adolescents aged 12 and older.

The decision was based on results from a clinical trial conducted in New York that confirmed the mRNA vaccine is safe for people aged 12 to 15 years of age. It is the first COVID-19 vaccine to be offered to that age group. The Pfizer vaccine was previously only approved for those aged 16 and older.

Health Canada called the decision a "significant milestone in Canada's fight against the COVID-19 pandemic."

Fabien Paquette of Pfizer's Canada spoke to As It Happens Host Carol off about this development. Here is part of their conversation.

What do you say to parents who may have cheered on the idea of their own parents getting vaccinated and encouraging that, but might be more leery when it comes to their own kids? 

Well, that's actually a very good question, because, of course, what you need to look at from an immunization standpoint is: what could be the value to be immunized?

And in this particular age group, the trial has demonstrated very strong results from a safety, tolerability and an efficacy standpoint. So the element to keep in mind is that adolescents are also vectors that could ... carry the virus.

And not only [will there] be a protection for themselves, but [also] for their, you know, significant family members surrounding them and people that they would like to be close with.

Fabien Paquette is Pfizer's Canada's vaccine lead. (CBC)

If Canada is to start vaccinating people from the age of 12 all the way to whatever, that's a lot of vaccines. Is Pfizer able to provide that? 

Oh, absolutely. Right now we are providing increased volumes of vaccines. And actually, if you take the month of May, we will be delivering over two million doses in Canada per week.

In June, we will be delivering 2.4 million doses per week for a total of 12 million. So basically, by the end of June, there will be 30 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines delivered in Canada.

That is a significant volume of vaccines to be deployed for all the age groups that would require it. And then we're going to move on. 

Of course, we still have 18 million doses to be deployed in July, August and September. And we're currently working on the projections to deliver those as per [our] plan.

The ability to vaccinate all these people from 12 up is based on … [them] having one dose, not the two doses. Is that right?

With the current volumes in place, the public health authorities across the country should be able to provide two doses in the vast majority of Canadians.

If you look into the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines and in addition to the Moderna vaccines that will also be coming in and the AstraZeneca and eventually the Johnson & Johnson, there should be enough vaccines for sure.

And particularly for the Pfizer-BioNTech … vaccines, there will be a total of 48 million doses that will be delivered by the end of September, so technically that means that you can cover at least 24 million Canadians with this.

And that's based on Canada's decision that a second dose would come four months after the first, right?

Right. The recommendation is actually up to four months. The recommendation has been made by NACI [the National Advisory Committee on Immunization]. However, each province has the opportunity to adjust the intervals between the first and second dose based on what they see is happening in terms of vaccine deployment and the requirements within their own province.

But correct me if I'm wrong. Pfizer has said ... that these trials are based on the second dose coming 21 days after the first one. Is there any more data, any more evidence you've got, that says that this is acceptable as far as your own trials go? 

Well, that's a good question, Carol, and you're absolutely right. Right now, the scientific evidence that we have remains that the best interval for the first and second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine be 21 days. So that is what we've been able to assess in our clinical trials.

We understand that considering the public health strategies to immunize as many people as possible, it was in their decision to make that recommendation to extend the intervals. I have to say that four months is a pretty long interval ... and now hopefully we are now going to bring enough vaccines into Canada to reduce that interval significantly.

Written by Rachel Adams with files from CBC Politics. Interview produced by Kevin Robertson. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.

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