On Monday morning, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the federal government has reached agreements with Novavax and Johnson & Johnson to secure millions of doses of the potential of COVID-19 vaccine candidates for Canadians.
Although the deal hinges on the fact that the vaccine candidates need approval from Health Canada if the trials proceed as planned, deliveries for the vaccines in Canada would begin at the start of 2021.
Novavax, the Maryland-based biotechnology company, announced in a press release on Monday that it has struck a deal to produce 76 million doses of a vaccine candidate for the Canadian government.
The Maryland-based biotech company is currently working on a potential COVID-19 vaccine that is known as a “protein subunit” vaccine, which is said to have the advantage of being manufactured faster than some other types of vaccine.
The drawback however is that this type of vaccine generally does not produce as strong as an immune system response as some other potential options.
Despite the drawback, Novavax released promising results of a very small clinical trial earlier this month, which showed the vaccine produced higher levels of antibodies in healthy volunteers after two doses than those found in recovered COVID-19 patients.
Later in the day, the Canadian federal government announced it has signed a separate deal with a subsidiary of New Jersey-based drug conglomerate Johnson & Johnson to secure up to 38 million doses of the company’s potential vaccine, which is completely different from Novavax’s.
In addition to the deals signed with Novavax and Johnson & Johnson, the federal government of Canada had also signed deals with pharmaceutical firms Pfizer and Moderna for access to millions of doses of their unique vaccine candidates earlier in the year.
“Taken together, our vaccine agreements with Pfizer, Moderna, Novavax, and Johnson & Johnson, will give Canada at least 88 million doses, with options to obtain tens of millions more,” said Prime Minister Trudeau during a press conference on Monday.
“Once a vaccine is proven to work, we’ll also need to be able to produce and distribute it here at home.”
To date Canada will be receiving the following COVID-19 vaccines from each of the companies that have signed the deal, totalling up to 190 million doses of vaccines:
- Novavax will supply 76 million doses of NVX-CoV2373,
- Moderna will supply 56 million of mRNA-1273,
- Johnson & Johnson will supply 38 million of Ad26.COV2.S,
- Pfizer will supply 20 million BNT162
In addition to the signed deals with the biotech and pharmaceutical companies, Prime Minister Trudeau announced today that the government would also be spending $126 million to expand the bio-manufacturing facility at the National Research Council in Montreal, with a projected deadline of mid-2021.
“This funding will increase this facility’s ability to manufacture vaccines and will strengthen the NRC’s partnerships with vaccine developers,” said Prime Minister Trudeau.
“In the weeks and months ahead, our government will continue to take the steps needed to make sure Canada gets a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible.”
Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist says that the vaccine candidates still have a variety of regulatory hurdles to overcome however he says Canada is well-positioned in the global race to find a COVID-19 vaccine following the announcements from the Prime Minister.
“It’s wonderful to see that the federal government is looking at vaccine candidates, looking at which ones could be successful. We appreciate that some of these might not be successful and we’re sort of hedging our bets and we’ll have access to vaccines when they become available,” said Dr. Bogoch.
Canada’s Vaccine Strategy: Will COVID-19 Immunization Be Mandatory?
In a follow-up press conference later in the afternoon, Canada’s Health Minister Patty Hajdu said that COVID-19 immunization will not be mandatory however Canadians can be assured that Health Canada’s regulatory process will ensure that the vaccine is safe and tested before it is released.
“We want to be very clear, Health Canada will not authorize a vaccine unless scientific evidence demonstrates that it is safe and effective,” said the Health Minister of Canada.
“Even in this accelerated environment, health-care officials are working around the clock to ensure Canada is well prepared when a safe vaccine becomes available.”
Health Minister Hajdu also praised Canadians for having a high degree of vaccine literacy when compared to international neighbours, however she warned Canadians about the misinformation that could be spread online.
“It’s so important that Canadians use credible sources when they’re looking for information about this vaccine and any other,” said Health Minister Hajdu.
“Including your family doctor, local public health units, or by visiting Health Canada’s website.”
During the conference Minister of Procurement Anita Anand was asked about which countries will get access to what and when, with Minister Anand saying that the government’s strategy to diversify suppliers will place Canada at the “front of the line”.
“At this stage, no one knows which vaccine is going to be successful. Therefore, we need to have many options on the table for Canadians and I will assure you that we aren’t on a frolic of our own in this decision-making” said the Minister of Procurement.
While Canada won’t have hands-on the production of these vaccine candidates, Minister Anand said investments like that in the NRC will help bolster the country’s abilities in the longer term.
“This is an important step in our government’s efforts to secure a vaccine to keep Canadians safe and healthy, as the global pandemic evolves,” said the Minister of Procurement.
“We need to make sure just as we did with PPE that there is a Canadian answer here.”
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