Health Canada has approved use of a fifth COVID-19 vaccine to add to its arsenal and perhaps lead to an uptick in vaccinations among people who remain hesitant.
The Nuvaxocid vaccine, which is protein-based, is the first of its kind to get approval in the country.
"It can help remove barriers to vaccination by providing an additional option to adults who have not yet received a COVID-19 vaccine," Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said Thursday.
Infections disease doctors say the non-mRNA vaccine could win over a few more vaccine-hesitant people who have not been immunized against COVID-19.
Two of the vaccines already available use genetically engineered messenger RNA, which instructs cells to start fighting the virus. It never enters a person's DNA, but some have voiced fears that it could do that and mutate.
More than 84 per cent of Canadians who are eligible are fully vaccinated. Tam said Nuvaxocid, developed by the U.S. company Novavax Inc., could play an important role in closing the gap.
"It is not too late to get your first, second or booster dose," Tam said.
Nuvaxocid is approved for adults 18 and older. It is administered in two doses, 21 days apart.
Dr. Supriya Sharma, chief medical adviser with Health Canada, said the vaccine contains small pieces of viral proteins that have been selected for their ability to trigger immunity. The approach is already used for diseases, including hepatitis B and for influenza.
Sharma said clinical trials found Nuvaxocid was 90 per cent effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 and 100 per cent effective at preventing severe disease.
Additionally, Health Canada said that preliminary data shows Nuvaxocid produces neutralizing antibodies against the Omicron variant that fuelled the fifth wave of the pandemic.
The vaccine has already been cleared for use in Europe, Australia and Singapore. Doses are to start being distributed in Canada in March.
Ottawa signed a deal last year to produce the Novavax's vaccine in Canada and a manufacturing plant was constructed in Montreal.
The first doses will not be manufactured in Canada. Sharma said the Montreal plant has not yet been authorized to produce the vaccine and has not indicated to Health Canada that it is prepared for an inspection.
Hospitalizations continued to slowly decline across the country and many provinces are moving to gradually lift public health orders.
Ontario saw hospitalizations drop by 61 to 1,342 Thursday, the same day capacity limits further eased. Restaurants, gyms and other indoor spaces that require proof of vaccination are no longer required to limit capacity. The exception is sports arenas and theatres which can open at half capacity.
Social gatherings and public events can include up to 50 people indoors, and settings deemed higher risk, including nightclubs and sex clubs, can open at 25 per cent capacity.
Hospitalizations in Quebec decreased by 93 people to 1,902, a day after the province relaxed restrictions in seniors residences. Quebec no longer requires people who live in seniors residences and long-term care homes to isolate for 10 days if another resident or a worker on their floor tests positive for COVID-19.
Health officials say 91 per cent of Quebec residents five and older have received at least one dose of vaccine and 50 per cent have received three.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 17, 2022.
Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press