Two more COVID-19 vaccines in the works as Moderna jab arrives in B.C.

© Provided by Vancouver Sun This file photo taken on November 18, 2020 shows a syringe and a bottle reading

The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine due to arrive in B.C. this week could end up among four vaccines available for use in Canada, says a UBC infectious disease expert.

Dr. Horacio Bach said that while the Pfizer vaccine was already being used in the province — with almost 6,000 doses given in B.C. since it was introduced last week — the more easily distributed Moderna vaccine was set to arrive this week.

Bach said the Canadian government also has supply deals for the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

“Canada signed a contract with AstraZeneca on Sept 25 to supply 20 million doses to be delivered in 2021, although no schedule has been provided,” Bach said.

Health Canada signed an agreement with Johnson & Johnson on Aug. 31, 2020 for 38 million doses of their vaccine to be delivered in 2021.

AstraZeneca applied in Canada on Oct. 1 for an emergency use permit, while Johnson & Johnson applied for the same permit on Nov. 30.

According to a Health Canada database, both those applications are still under review (while Pfizer and Moderna are approved.)

Bach said the U.K. government was expected to approve the AstraZeneca vaccine on Jan. 4, as that country deals with a more infectious COVID-19 variant.

He said the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has more than 90 per cent efficacy, does not require freezing, making it much easier to transport than the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, while the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was the only one of the four that requires just once shot (not two).

On Dec. 23 — the last time B.C. reported a daily COVID-19 caseload — provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said she expected 240,000 British Columbians to be fully vaccinated (with both shots 35 days apart) by the end of March.

She said the Moderna vaccine was more flexible than the Pfizer vaccine because the 1,200 dose boxes that it arrived in could be broken into 100 doses and then shipped around the province (while requiring a lower freezing temperature during storage.)

“So that means we can start to address some of the urgent needs that we have to protect people in some of our remote and isolated, particularly First Nations communities, and also residents of long-term care homes, where we know the virus is causing the most damage,” Henry said.

She said Pfizer had approved B.C.’s plan to distribute that vaccine beyond the point of arrival, and that would start this week.

© Provided by Vancouver Sun Dr. Bonnie Henry received her first shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday.

Henry was given her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine on Dec. 22 from a point of arrival in Victoria.

Vaccines are expected to be widely available in B.C. in the second quarter of 2021.

Bach said there were two COVID-19 treatments that had received conditional approval in Canada — bamlanivimab and remdesivir. The bamlanivimab antibody treatment was developed by Vancouver-based public company AbCellera and U.K. pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly.

Despite all the progress, Bach said COVID-19 would be “with us for a while,” as not all people would agree to be vaccinated, while it was also not 100 per cent effective. He said there was also a risk that newly emergent COVID-19 variants could make existing vaccines less effective.