FAQ: Answering the most common questions about Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine
A nurse holds a phial of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Guy's Hospital in London, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, Pool)
TORONTO -- Health Canada’s approval of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine is another promising step toward the end of the pandemic.
Still, questions swirl around the vaccine, its rollout and any potential side-effects it may have.
CTVNews.ca compiled answers to some of the common questions people have about Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine:
HOW IS IT ADMINISTERED?
The vaccine is administered through a needle injection in the muscle of the arm. For best results, the vaccine requires two 0.3-millilitre doses, with the second coming 21 days after the first.
HOW EFFECTIVE IS IT?
Studies based on 44,000 participants show Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine was 95-per-cent effective in preventing an infection of the virus one week after the second dose, meaning it’s possible that it does not begin to work at least seven days after a second injection.
The vaccine’s long-term immunity is still being evaluated.
WHAT TYPE OF VACCINE IS IT?
Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccineis a “messenger RNA” vaccine, a new vaccine technology that is like “giving an instruction booklet for your cells to make antigens,” Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious disease specialist, told CTVNews.ca back in November.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE SIDE-EFFECTS?
According to Health Canada, clinical trials of the Pfizer vaccine showed similar side-effects to other vaccines, including pain where the injection took place, body chills, feeling tired and feeling feverish.
Serious side-effects such as an allergic reaction are rare and short lived, though two people in the U.K. suffered apparent allergic reactions on the first day of the country’s vaccination rollout.
WHO IS IT APPROVED FOR?
On Dec. 9, Health Canada approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for Canadians above the age of 16. The safety and effectiveness of the vaccine in people younger than 16 is not yet established.
WHEN WILL CANADIANS RECEIVE THEIR VACCINATION?
The first shipment of the vaccine could arrive as early as Monday, with the first vaccinations of Canada’s most vulnerable people beginning sometime next week.
The plan is for vaccination of the general public to begin in April 2021.
HOW MANY DOSES IS CANADA GETTING?
Canada is set to receive 249,000 doses of the vaccine by the end of December, meaning nearly 125,000 people will be able to be vaccinated in fairly short order, given the vaccine requires two doses.
The federal government has purchased 20 million doses of the vaccine, with an option to purchase an additional 56 million.
HOW IS IT STORED/TRANSPORTED?
Pfizer’s vaccine must be stored at -70 degrees Celsius, give or take 10 degrees.
In the company’s U.S. distribution fact sheet, Pfizer said it “developed packaging and storage innovations” using dry ice in order to transport the vaccines at the appropriate temperature. The company is also using “GPS-enabled thermal sensors” to monitor the vaccine’s temperature.