Health Canada says the comments it made on Twitter on Tuesday that its review of a COVID-19 vaccine for children would still take months were incorrect and the posts were deleted – instead, the regulator says it will ” take weeks, not months. “
The comments angered parents who on the same day saw regulators in the United States approve the use of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine for children aged five to 11 years. NBC News reported that the first shots were already given on Wednesday.
The Health Canada tweet on Tuesday said Pfizer’s submission “will be reviewed in the coming months.” The posting was removed late Tuesday night because it was incorrect, spokesman Eric Morrissette said Wednesday.
Wednesday morning, it had been removed, and a Health Canada spokesman said the regulator’s tweet Tuesday was incorrect. It took the regulator more than 19 hours to send the exact information to his social media account.
“The tweet was really a bug (both in content and the fact that it was sent in response to an old tweet) and was therefore removed,” said Mr. Morrissette in a statement. He added that comments made last week by Health Canada’s chief medical adviser, Dr. Supriya Sharma, is still the most accurate information on when Canadian children will be able to get their shots.
On Friday, Dr. Sharma timing for a decision on vaccine use in children in a matter of weeks, rather than months.
“We are still at least a few weeks away from a final decision,” she said, adding that Pfizer was still submitting new information, noting that its application in Canada was submitted after it submitted its application to U.S. regulators.
“I do not see a decision until mid-late November,” said Dr. Sharma. “Sure, again, it depends on the data.”
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“One of the things we are very careful about is that we know that when we make decisions, especially about our most vulnerable precious commodity, our children, it is that people will make sure that we trust the review and submission and that we have that information available so that people can weigh these risks and benefits, ”said Dr. Sharma.
The pediatric COVID-19 vaccine is slightly different from the adult formulation of Pfizer-BioNTech. For that reason, the company will have to supply new vials with the vaccine before Canadian children can get their shots. In the US, the vaccination campaign for newly eligible children is expected to reach its full pace next week.
Canada has said that shortly after Health Canada approves the vaccines, Pfizer will deliver 2.9 million child-sized doses of the new formulation. It is enough to cover the first doses for all children between five and 11 years. On Wednesday, Pfizer Canada spokeswoman Christina Antoniou said the company is “prepared to deliver the pediatric vaccine doses to Canada as soon as we receive Health Canada authorization.”
So far, Health Canada has approved COVID-19 vaccines for individuals 12 years of age and older. Among the eligible population, the COVID-19 Vaccination Tracker website shows that 89 percent of people got their first shot and 85 percent got their second shot.
Data from the Canadian Public Health Agency show that the vast majority of people who still become ill with COVID-19 in Canada are unvaccinated. Similarly, the vast majority of people who have to be hospitalized due to the disease, or who die from it, are unvaccinated.
In its series of corrected tweets Wednesday, Health Canada underlined its focus on vaccine safety, saying it “only approves all COVID-19 vaccines after independent and thorough scientific reviews for safety, efficacy and quality.”
With files from the Canadian press and Reuters