A brief look at the seven vaccines Canada has pre-ordered


OTTAWA — Between July 24 and Oct. 22, Canada signed deals to pre-order seven COVID-19 vaccines. Here’s a brief look at what we know about those vaccines, listed by manufacturer.


Headquarters: Cambridge, Mass.

About the vaccine: Messenger RNA (ribonucleic acid), a genetic component that carries genetic information of a virus. The mRNA vaccines inject part of the code from the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which then train the immune system to recognize the virus and mount an immune response against it. Moderna partnered with Lonza, which is manufacturing the vaccine.

Storage: Vaccine is frozen between -15C and -25C, can be kept in a refrigerator between 2C and 8C for up to 30 days.

Doses: Two, 28 days apart.*

Effectiveness: Trials showed it to prevent serious illness from COVID-19 in 94 per cent of patients.

Canadian purchase agreement signed; July 24, 2020.

Doses purchased: 40 million. Initial purchase was 20 million doses with option for 36 million more. Canada exercised the option to buy 20 million more in early December. The remaining optional doses expired in December. Canada expects all 40 million doses to be delivered by the fall.

Status in Canada: Approved by Health Canada Dec. 23, 2020 for use on Canadians 18 years and older.


Headquarters: Pfizer is headquartered in New York City and BioNTech in Mainz, Germany.

About the vaccine: Like Moderna’s, it is an mRNA vaccine. BioNTech developed the technology and partnered with Pfizer for further research, manufacturing and commercialization.

Storage: Vaccine must be kept at ultralow temperatures, between -60C and -80C. It is shipped on dry ice to keep it cold between freezers. Can be thawed to room temperature up to five days before use. It must be mixed with sodium chloride before injection and after mixing, can be kept at room temperature up to six hours.

Doses: Two, 21 days apart.*

Effectiveness: Prevented serious illness in 95 per cent of patients.

Canadian purchase agreement: Aug. 1, 2020.

Doses purchased: Canada got 20 million guaranteed doses with an option for 56 million more. It has exercised the options for another 20 million doses in 2021. Pfizer is to deliver four million doses by March 31 and most of the rest by Sept. 30.

Status in Canada: Approved by Health Canada Dec. 9 for Canadians 16 years of age and older.

Johnson and Johnson

Headquarters: New Brunswick, New Jersey

About the vaccine: It is a viral vectored vaccine, which adapted a common cold virus, known as an adenovirus, so it carries a piece of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. Exposure trains the body to recognize the virus and develop an immune response to fight it off.

Storage: Can be stored up to two years at -20C, and in a refrigerator between 2C and 8C for three months.

Doses: Currently a single dose (a trial with two doses is underway).

Effectiveness: It was 66 per cent effective against moderate and severe illness, and 85 per cent effective at preventing severe illness.

Canadian purchase agreement: Aug. 24, 2020.

Doses purchased: 10 million guaranteed doses, with options to buy 28 million more.

Status in Canada: Submitted for rolling review at Health Canada on Nov. 30, 2020. Health Canada waiting for additional information before making a decision.


Headquarters: Gaithersburg, Md.

About the vaccine: A protein subunit vaccine, which uses proteins from the SARS-CoV-2 virus to trick the body’s cells into making parts of the virus that will then provoke an immune response.

Storage: It can be stored at refrigerator temperatures between 2C and 8C.

Doses: Two, 21 days apart.

Effectiveness: A Phase 3 trial in the United Kingdom showed 89 per cent effectiveness against COVID-19 infections.

Canadian purchase agreement: Aug. 27, 2020.

Doses purchased: 52 million guaranteed, plus an option to buy another 20 million.

Status in Canada: Novavax submitted an application to Health Canada on Jan. 29, 2021. The review has begun but it will likely be at least a month before Novavax has all the safety data it needs to file.


Headquarters: Sanofi is headquartered in Paris, GlaxoSmithKline in Brentford, U.K.

About the vaccine: Adjuvanted recombinant protein-based vaccine, a technique common in influenza vaccines. Uses the protein from the SARS-CoV-2 virus to invoke an immune response in the patient. Sanofi is providing the vaccine, while GSK is providing the adjuvant, a substance that enhances the immune response.

Early results in adults over the age of 50 were disappointing and Sanofi is retooling the vaccine. Another study will launch this month, and if that works well, a Phase 3 study could start in the spring, but the earliest a vaccine could be ready for approval is the fall.

Canadian purchase agreement: Sept. 11, 2020.

Doses purchased: 52 million plus an option for 20 million more.

Status in Canada: Not submitted for approval


Headquarters: Quebec City

About the vaccine: recombinant Coronavirus Virus-Like Particle (CoVLP).

Storage: Refrigerated at 2 C to 8 C

Doses: Two, schedule uncertain.

Effectiveness: Still in development; Phase 2 trial to finish this month.

Canadian purchase agreement: Oct. 22, 2020.

Doses purchased: 20 million, with an option to buy 56 million more.

Status in Canada: Not yet submitted for approval. Phase 3 trial could begin this spring, with approval likely considered in the fall if the trial shows success.


Headquarters: Cambridge, U.K.

About the vaccine: A viral vector vaccine, similar to Johnson and Johnson’s, however the adenovirus used by AstraZeneca normally infects chimpanzees. The vaccine modifies the virus so it can’t infect a human, and attaches part of the SARS-CoV-2 virus to invoke an immune response.

Storage: Refrigerated at 2 C to 8 C, for both shipping and storage.

Doses: Two, 28 days apart*

Effectiveness: Shown to be 70 per cent effective at preventing serious illness.

Canadian purchase agreement: Sept. 24, 2020.

Doses purchased: 20 million.

Status in Canada: Applied for approval Oct. 1, 2020; Health Canada review is in the final stages with a decision expected within the next two weeks.


* The National Advisory Committee on Immunization in Canada says the vaccines should be given on schedule where possible but if there are supply shortages, the second dose could be delayed up to six weeks, instead of the three or four weeks recommended.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 2, 2021.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press