Coronavirus: Canada approves Pfizer vaccine

World wrap: Merkel pleads with Germans to cut down socialising as death toll rises

Canada’s health regulator has approved Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine.

Health Canada posted on its website that the vaccine made by US drug manufacturer Pfizer and Germany's BioNTech has been authorised.

Dr Supriya Sharma, chief medical advisor at Health Canada, said: “This is a critical milestone. Canadians can have confidence in our rigorous review process, and that the vaccine was only authorised only after a thorough assessment of the evidence demonstrated that it met Canada’s strict standards for safety, efficacy and quality.”

Health Canada said terms of the approval require the manufacturer to continue providing information on the safety, efficacy and quality of the vaccine.


Canada is set to receive up to 249,000 doses this month and 4 million doses of the vaccine by March.

The UK began vaccinations with the shot made by Pfizer and BioNTech on Tuesday.

US regulators have also released their first scientific evaluation of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine and confirmed it offers strong protection. Vaccines are emerging from an all-out worldwide race and are reaching the market less than a year after the virus was identified — a remarkable scientific achievement that shaved years off the usual process.

The encouraging developments come as coronavirus continues surging across much of the world. The virus has claimed more than 1.5 million lives.

US Food and Drug Administration scientists are meeting on Thursday, when the agency’s independent advisers will debate if the evidence is strong enough to recommend vaccinating millions of Americans.

Health Canada said the vaccine is for use in people 16 years of age or older, but noted Pfizer-BioNTech are running further clinical trials on children of all age groups and that could change.

The Canadian government has said 14 distribution centres will be located in large cities initially. There will be at least one in each province and two each in Canada’s four largest provinces.

"This is phenomenal news for all Canadians as we take the next step toward ending this pandemic. As soon as vaccines arrive on Ontario soil, we will be ready to deliver and administer them," Ontario premier Doug Ford said in a tweet.


German chancellor Angela Merkel has pleaded with her compatriots to cut down on socialising as the country reported its highest single-day death toll of the coronavirus pandemic.

Germany is gradually moving towards a tighter lockdown, at least for a limited period after Christmas, as new virus cases remain stubbornly high — and are even beginning to creep higher — despite a partial shutdown that started on November 2nd.

The national disease control centre, the Robert Koch Institute, reported 590 deaths related to Covid-19 over the past 24 hours — more than 100 higher than the week-old previous record.

It counted 20,815 new daily cases, compared with 17,270 a week earlier. Germany, which has 83 million people, has now recorded nearly 1.22 million cases, including 19,932 deaths in the pandemic.

Mrs Merkel told Germany’s parliament: “We are in a decisive, perhaps the decisive, phase of fighting the pandemic. The figures are at much too high a level.”

She described the rising number of people requiring intensive care and dying as “very alarming”.

Mrs Merkel has consistently advocated decisive action but has often had to move more slowly because, in highly decentralised Germany, the country’s 16 state governments are responsible for imposing and lifting restrictions. She and state governors meet periodically to co-ordinate measures.

Restaurants, bars, leisure and sports facilities are currently closed, and hotels are closed to tourists, but schools and non-essential shops remain open.

Germany managed to avoid the high number of infections and grim death tolls seen in other large European nations in the spring, and continues to have a much lower overall fatality rate than countries such as the UK, France and Spain. But the current numbers are not encouraging.

Mrs Merkel noted a recommendation from a national academy of scientists and academics for Germans to reduce their social contacts starting next week and put in place a “hard lockdown” from December 24th to January 10th.

“We would do well to really take seriously what scientists tell us,” she said.

Mrs Merkel called for state governments to consider closing schools early before Christmas and said that people hopping from one mulled wine stand over the holidays to the next is “unacceptable” in view of the daily death figures.

“If we have too many contacts before Christmas and then it’s our last Christmas with our grandparents, then we will have been negligent,” she said.

Some state governors are already moving to tougher restrictions. The eastern state of Saxony, currently the worst-hit, will close schools and most stores on Monday until January 10th. Its southern neighbour, Bavaria, is introducing measures such as a night-time curfew in its worst-affected areas and demanding more home schooling and stricter border controls.


Spain’s rate of confirmed coronavirus cases fell to 193 cases per 100,000 people on Wednesday to reach the lowest level recorded since August, health ministry data showed.

The ministry reported 9,773 infections since Monday, bringing the total up to just over 1.7 million, while the number of deaths increased by 373 to 47,019.

No data was released on Tuesday as it was a national holiday in Spain.

While Spain's infection rate has slowed in recent weeks, health minister Salvador Illa urged Spaniards to stay at home over Christmas to avoid a fresh resurgence. – AP