The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine has been approved for use in Canada, with 168,000 doses expected to arrive by the end of the year.
Health Canada announced the approval Wednesday in a notice authorizing its use for people over the age of 18.
So what does that mean for New Brunswick?
When can we expect the Moderna vaccine here, and who will get it?
In an interview with CBC News on Wednesday, Dr. Jennifer Russell, the chief medical officer of health, provided some insight on these and other questions.
Here are some highlights of the interview, which has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: When will the first doses of the Moderna vaccine arrive in New Brunswick?
JR: My understanding is that we will receive it early next week, around the 28th or 29th of December.
Q: How many doses are we getting in that shipment?
JR: We have about 2,400 doses. Half of them will go to long-term-care facility residents, and the remaining doses will be held back so that we can re-vaccinate that group a month from now, because this vaccine still requires two doses to provide immunity protection.
Q: So you’re sticking with the same criteria for who is considered priority?
JR: Yes, absolutely. Our first three months of the vaccination rollout will include that first priority group.
Q: Where will you begin rollout of the Moderna vaccine?
JR: The advantage of Moderna is that instead of needing to be held at –80 degrees (like the Pzifer BioNTech vaccine), it’s held at –20. So that changes where we can distribute it because the availability of ultra-low-temperature freezers is not as much of a factor.
Q: What determines whether a person gets the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine or the Moderna vaccine?
JR: There’s an extensive planning process, because we’re not planning for next week and the week after, we’re planning from now until September. There’s a framework, a template with all the expected doses of different types of vaccines and the rollout of each specific one.
Q: Are the vaccines different in such a way that they would suit a certain person or group over another?
JR: Of the seven vaccines that we expect to be approved by Health Canada, each have different profiles in terms of efficacy, in terms of side-effects, and adverse events. So that is taken into account when we’re looking at the different priority groups and rolling this out.
Q: How will the rollout change over time?
JR: As we get further down the list of the seen vaccines, we will be getting the later vaccines in much larger quantities. So when we look at doing the larger population that don’t fall into any of those priority groups, the rollout will be more like a flu vaccine campaign, with many, many, many different providers involved in a short period of time.
Q: Will patients be able to choose when they get their vaccine?
JR: When you get the invitation, if there’s a scheduling issue or if, for whatever reason, you choose to wait, you certainly can. Again, because this rollout is going to happen over the next nine months, there will be other opportunities for people to get vaccinated.
Q: Are there any disadvantages to Moderna, anything you’re concerned about?
JR: Not based on the data we’ve received from the National Advisory Committee on Immunizations and from my meetings with colleagues across the country. But both Moderna and Pfizer are a new type of technology. These are MRNA vaccines, we haven’t used these before. So along with the other vaccines that are coming along, we do want to make sure that we capture the information about any side-effects or adverse effects.
Q: How will that be done?
JR: You can find the data on the Heath Canada or the Public Health Agency of Canada website around all the different vaccines, the types of reactions, the percentage of people who get them, and that information (about the new vaccines) is going to be captured. Obviously, it’s very important to have this information accessible across the country, so if we do need to make any kinds of adjustments with the rollout, we can.