Health Highlights, Dec. 9, 2020

Below are newsworthy items compiled by HealthDay staff:

Canada Approves Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine

Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine has been approved by Canada's health agency and the first Canadians could start receiving it next week.

In announcing the approval on Wednesday, Health Canada said it had completed a full independent review of the data on the vaccine's safety and effectiveness, The New York Times reported.

Britain approved the vaccine earlier, but it was an emergency approval largely based on Pfizer's analysis.

Canada has ordered 6 million doses from Pfizer and the first 249,000 doses are expected to arrive at 14 Canadian distribution centers next week, The Times reported.

Health Canada's approval of the vaccine -- which requires two doses -- is limited to people older than 16. It wants more data from Pfizer before approving the vaccine for children.

Canada's first shipment of the vaccine will come from plants in the United States and Belgium. Canadians could start receiving injections of the vaccine from U.S.-based Pfizer before Americans, The Times reported.

COVID-19 Vaccine Caution Issued by U.K. Officials

People with a "significant history" of allergic reactions shouldn't receive the new Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, U.K. regulators said Tuesday.

The advice was issued after two people suffered adverse reactions on the first day of the U.K.'s mass vaccination program, the Associated Press reported.

The regulators said they're investigating the two cases.

"As is common with new vaccines the [Medical and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency] have advised on a precautionary basis that people with a significant history of allergic reactions do not receive this vaccination after two people with a history of significant allergic reactions responded adversely yesterday," Stephen Powis, national medical director of the National Health Service, said in a statement, the AP reported.

"Both are recovering well," Powis added.

"We know from the very extensive clinical trials that this wasn't a feature," Dr. June Raine, head of the MHRA, told a Parliamentary committee, the AP reported. "But If we need to strengthen our advice, now that we have had this experience with the vulnerable populations, the groups who have been selected as a priority, we get that advice to the field immediately."

Mystery Illness Strike Hundreds in India

More than 300 people in India were hospitalized with a "mystery illness" over the weekend, and there was one death.

The patients in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh had symptoms similar to those associated with epilepsy, including headaches, nausea, vomiting and seizures, CBS News reported.

Dozens of people in Eluru city started falling ill on Saturday night, with some losing consciousness. By Monday morning, 315 people with the unexplained illness were in a local hospital. None of them tested positive for COVID-19.

More than 150 of the patients were released after treatment, CBS News reported.

Blood tests, brain scans or cerebral spinal fluid tests have not revealed the cause of the illness, and doctors were still waiting on some blood cultures and tests to check for E. coli bacteria.

It wasn't immediately clear whether the illness might be infectious. Leading health experts from across India were expected to arrive in Eluru this week to help investigate the illness, CBS News reported.

California Introduces Smartphone Coronavirus Exposure Alert Tool

A smartphone tool to alert people of possible coronavirus exposure will become available in California on Thursday.

Officials said the voluntary tool uses Bluetooth wireless signals to detect when two phones are within 6 feet (1.8 meters) of each other for at least 15 minutes, the Associated Press reported.

If a user tests positive for the new coronavirus, they'll receive a verification code they can use to send an anonymous alert to other users who may have been exposed over the past 14 days.

The tool's introduction comes as California's coronavirus cases soar and new restrictions are imposed, the AP reported.

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