Wednesday, Health Canada authorized Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for adolescents 12 years of age and older. The decision was based on the results of a New York City clinical trial that confirmed the mRNA vaccine is safe for people aged 12 to 15. It is the first COVID-19 vaccine to be offered to this age group. The Pfizer vaccine was previously only approved for people 16 years of age and older.
Health Canada called the decision “an important milestone in Canada’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Fabien Paquette of Pfizer’s Canada spoke with As it happens Animate Carol about this development. Here is part of their conversation.
What do you say to parents who may have applauded the idea of their own parents getting vaccinated and encouraged them, but who might be more suspicious of their own children?
Well, that’s actually a really good question, because, of course, what you need to look at from a vaccination standpoint is: what could be the value of being vaccinated?
And in this particular age group, the trial demonstrated very strong results from a safety, tolerability and efficacy standpoint. So the thing 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, the important family members around them and the people they would like to be close with.
If Canada wants to start vaccinating people from 12 years old to anything, that’s a lot of vaccines. Can Pfizer provide this?
Oh, absolutely. At present, we are providing increased volumes of vaccines. And in fact, if you take May, we’ll be delivering over two million doses to Canada per week.
In June, we will deliver 2.4 million doses per week for a total of 12 million. So essentially, by the end of June, 30 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will be delivered to Canada.
This is a significant volume of vaccines to be deployed for all age groups that would need it. And then we’ll move on.
Of course, we still have 18 million doses to deploy in July, August and September. And we are currently working on the projections to deliver them according to [our] plan.
The ability to vaccinate all these people from the age of 12 is based on … [them] have one dose, not both doses. Is it correct?
With current volumes in place, public health authorities across the country should be able to deliver two doses to the vast majority of Canadians.
If you look at the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines and in addition to the Moderna vaccines which will also be arriving and AstraZeneca and possibly Johnson & Johnson, there should be enough vaccines for sure.
And in particular 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 you can cover at least 24 million Canadians with that.
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 was made by NACI [the National Advisory Committee on Immunization]. However, each province has the option of adjusting the intervals between the first and second dose based on what they see in terms of vaccine deployment and requirements in their own province.
But correct me if I’m wrong. Pfizer said… that these trials are based on the second dose coming 21 days after the first. Is there any other data, other evidence that you have, that indicates that this is acceptable as far as your own trials go?
Well, that’s a good question, Carol, and you’re absolutely right. At present, the scientific evidence we have remains that the best interval for the first and second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is 21 days. This is what we were able to evaluate in our clinical trials.
We understand that given public health strategies to vaccinate as many people as possible, it was their decision to make this recommendation to extend the intervals. I have to say that four months is a long enough interval… and now I hope we will now bring enough vaccines to Canada to significantly reduce that interval.
Written by Rachel Adams with files from CBC Politics. Interview conducted by Kevin Robertson. Questions and answers have been edited for length and clarity.