Updated 3 February 2021
Entering 2021, the Great White North is still dealing with its Coronavirus caseloads.
Now, with the advent of the vaccination program, the country is hoping to back to normal post-COVID life soon enough. Find out more about the Pfizer shots in Canada.
How does the Pfizer vaccine work?
Among the available COVID-19 vaccines, there are four distinct types, namely, whole virus (this can again be a weakened form or inactivated coronavirus), protein subunit, nucleic acid (RNA or DNA), and viral vector.
The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-29 vaccine BNT162b2 is a messenger Ribonucleic Acid (mRNA) vaccine meaning that the vaccine carries genetic instructions that help the recipient’s cells to produce protein pieces that trigger immune system response. The response is in form of the reproduction of millions of copies of spike protein which stimulates the making of antibodies.
This is the same spike protein that is available in the coronavirus and used to enter the cells in the human body. If a sufficient number of antibodies are produced in the human body with the mRNA vaccine, they will prevent the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 from proliferating, thus protecting the recipient from COVID-19.
How effective is the Pfizer vaccine?
The Pfizer vaccine works best with two doses where the second one is registered 21 days after the first one. On administration of the first dose, the immune system is alerted, and post the second one, it gets a boost, thus providing the immunity to fight off the virus. Efficacy is 52% after the first dose and raises up to 95% after the second jab. So, it takes around four weeks to build immunity after the first dose (could happen earlier as well).
It is, however, not particularly known how long the vaccine immunity will last. Insights regarding the Pfizer COVID vaccine’s long term effects are clouded as trials weren’t set up to answer the same. CEO of BioNTech Sahin expects it to be months or possibly even years before the vaccine recipient becomes vulnerable to COVID-19 infection again. Eleanor Riley at the University of Edinburgh in the UK mentioned that we might have to resort to annual boosters.
It is also strongly recommended that you should complete the vaccine course i.e. take both the doses before you leave the city.
Are there any reported side effects?
As far as safety is concerned, the Pfizer vaccine has an overall great safety profile with its benefits outweigh the potential risks. Based on safety data collected from 37,586 participants enrolled in an ongoing phase 3 clinical trial, the most commonly reported side effect involves volunteers experiencing an injection site reaction (seen in almost 84% of those who received the vaccine).
So, if you are taking the vaccine, know that the injection site on your arm might hurt a little, show some redness, and get swollen a bit. You might also experience difficulties in moving your arm freely. Other known side effects of the Pfizer vaccine includes:
- Joint pains
Severe reactions were rare with four cases of Bell’s palsy being reported during the trial. However, there is no clear evidence that the cause of this temporary paralysis was the vaccine. Adverse allergic reactions are also possible and hence those who experienced any major allergic reaction during the first dose of the vaccine are being advised not to take the second one.
Who’ll get the Pfizer vaccine in Canada?
As of now, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) has recommended two stages while prioritizing the population for COVID vaccination. There is no further prioritization within each stage.
Stage 1 :
- Residents and staff of congregate living settings that provide care for seniors
- Adults 70 years of age and older, beginning with adults 80 years of age and older, then decreasing the age limit by 5-year increments to age 70 years as supply becomes available
- Health care workers (including all those who work in health care settings and personal support workers whose work involves direct contact with patients)
- Adults in Indigenous communities where infection can have disproportionate consequences
Stage 2 :
- Health care workers not included in the initial rollout
- Residents and staff of all other congregate settings (e.g., quarters for migrant workers, correctional facilities, homeless shelters)
- Essential workers
NACI will provide further guidance on the use of COVID-19 vaccine(s) upon further review of the evidence.
COVID vaccination is not mandatory in Canada, and is rather kept a personal choice for all Canadians.
Where to get the Pfizer shots in Canada?
As of now, most of the distribution of Pfizer vaccine in Canada is directed towards Ontario, as it is the worst-hit region in the country. The government of Ontario has released a list of 17 hospitals that will be delivering the Pfizer/BioNTech jabs in the coming weeks. This list includes:
- Windsor Regional Hospital
- London Health Sciences Centre
- Grand River Hospital
- Halton Healthcare
- Hamilton Health Sciences
- William Osler Health System
- Trillium Health Partners
- Southlake Regional Health Centre
- Mackenzie Health
- Humber River Hospital
- Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
- Toronto East Health Network
- Unity Health Toronto
- Scarborough Health Network
- Lakeridge Health
- Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre
- Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre
Provinces and territories have developed their own plans for the vaccine roll-out. Check out the details of Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Nunavut, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Saskatchewan and Yukon.
How much will the Pfizer vaccine cost?
Coronavirus vaccines are available free of cost to any Canadian who wishes to be inoculated against this infection.
Latest updates on the Pfizer Vaccine
Recently, Canada exercised its option with Pfizer/BioNTech to place an order for additional 20 million doses. This brings the country’s total purchase quantity from the American pharmaceutical company up to 40 million doses. It can still secure 36 million more doses from Pfizer as per their contract.
Due to changes being introduced by Pfizer in its manufacturing with a view to increasing the production, Canada has suffered a setback in its supply of the Pfizer vials, along with other countries. Toward the end of January and early February, the country received one-fifth of the previously planned shipments. However, the government has stated that Pfizer remains confident that it will deliver all 40 million doses by fall.