In this handout photo released by the University of Oxford, a volunteer participates in a vaccine trial in Oxford, England on July 7. (University of Oxford/Associated Press)

Health Canada begins first review of COVID-19 vaccine submission

Health Canada has received its first submission to approve a COVID-19 vaccine developed by pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca in partnership with the University of Oxford, officials announced Friday.

The announcement comes a week after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the federal government has signed an agreement with AstraZeneca to procure up to 20 million doses of its COVID‑19 vaccine candidate.

Health Canada will be doing a rolling review of AstraZeneca’s vaccine data to make sure it meets the “rigorous safety and efficacy requirements,” officials said in a statement.

This allows Canadian health officials to start their review right away, as information continues to come in, to speed up the review process, the statement added.

“This is an important step for Canada in its response to the pandemic, but it is just one step on the road to obtaining safe and effective vaccines,” the statement said.

Health Canada will not make a decision on whether to authorize any vaccine candidate until it has received the necessary evidence to support its safety, efficacy and quality, officials said.

Following the approval of any vaccine submission, Health Canada will publish the evidence it reviewed, officials said, adding that they will continue to work closely with international regulators to make the review “more efficient and robust.”

The federal government has also reached preliminary agreements with drugmakers Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Novavax, Pfizer, and Moderna to buy millions of doses of their vaccine candidates if and when they clear all the regulatory hurdles.

With these agreements in place, the federal government has now secured access for Canadians to six leading vaccine candidates and 174 million doses of various vaccines, Minister of Public Services and Procurement Anita Anand said last week.

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