Canada signs first deal for manufacture of foreign COVID-19 vaccine

Grant Boone
February 2, 2021

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the government has inked a deal that will see COVID-19 vaccines churned out on home soil.

That risk became ever more real this week as Europe's new export controls on vaccines take hold, putting at risk Canada's entire supply of COVID-19 vaccines.

"Today, we are investing in our biomanufacturing capacity so that we have the made-in-Canada vaccines and treatments we need to protect Canadians, now and in the future, and recover from the impacts of COVID-19", Trudeau said.

The N.W.T.'s chief public health officer, Dr. Kami Kandola, says while the delay is disappointing, the territory's vaccine rollout plan is flexible and changes will only be felt in the short term. In August of a year ago, Trudeau announced that $123 million would be used to build an entirely new manufacturing centre next to the Royalmount facility, for the objective of producing deliverable vaccine doses.

Trudeau also says additional vaccines could be produced in Saskatchewan and Vancouver, but there are no deals with other vaccine makers to use those facilities yet.

The trial in the United Kingdom showed significant effectiveness against both the original virus behind COVID-19, and the variant known as B.1.17 that was first identified there. A smaller Phase 2 trial in South Africa showed the vaccine was also effective against a variant that first emerged there, known as B. Once finished the facility will be created to produce about two million doses a month.

"We knew that there would be some hurdles along the way with unpredictability and increased demand for production", Trudeau said.

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Nanovax will produce their vaccine at the National Research Council's Royalmount facility.

Provincial officials confirmed Tuesday that Health Canada is still reviewing data on other vaccine candidates that are awaiting approval, including AstraZeneca, but an announcement could be made in the next week.

As The Canadian Press has reported, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada and the National Research Council have been in talks with worldwide front-running vaccine manufacturers, seeking to have them scale up production in Canada.

Vido-InterVac now projects they will be able to produce 40 million doses annually.

The move to revive more Canadian vaccine manufacturing was sparked amid the pandemic, after the industry dwindled considerably over the preceding decades.

To date, more than 70,000 people have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, receiving both the first and second doses.

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