Dec. 9 (UPI) -- Canadian health officials on Wednesday approved a COVID-19 vaccine made by U.S. drug company Pfizer for general use, becoming the second country worldwide to give it the go-ahead.
With the decision, Canada joined Britain in determining the vaccine is sufficiently safe and effective for general use.
Health Canada said approval of the vaccine from Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech represents "a critical milestone" in the country's fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
"Canadians can feel confident that the review process was rigorous and that we have strong monitoring systems in place," the agency said in a statement announcing the move.
Health Canada did not specify a timetable for the vaccine's distribution, saying only that arrangements are being finalized and details will be announced soon.
Health officials announced last week Canada will receive up to 249,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine this month.
Public health officials, the Canadian Armed Forces and provincial leaders said they are working with the company to finalize preparations at the first point-of-use sites.
Britain began inoculations Tuesday after issuing the world's first approval to Pfizer last week.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will consider the company's application for an "emergency use authorization" in the United States later this week. Tuesday, the FDA issued a preliminary review finding the vaccine to be safe and effective.
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Wednesday he expects the FDA to approve the Pfizer vaccine within the next few days.
Under the terms of Canada's approval through a coronavirus-specific rolling application, Pfizer and BioNTech are required to continue providing information to the government on the vaccine's safety, efficacy and quality.