Federal government signs new COVID-19 vaccine deal to produce millions of doses expected by 2021

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OTTAWA – The federal government is partnering with biopharmacy and biotechnology giants Pfizer and Moderna to help secure millions of doses of vaccine that will be ready for distribution across Canada in 2021. Supply Minister Anita Anand said on Wednesday that the deal with the two multinational companies would help put Canada in a competitive position in the global hunt for coronavirus therapies.

“Pfizer is evaluating at least four experimental vaccine candidates and is currently in clinical trials. These trials are underway in various countries, including Germany and the United States, and are already showing promising results, ”Anand said at a press conference in Toronto on Wednesday. .

The minister did not give details on the number of doses that would be developed, nor on the exact amount of the contract, indicating sensitive and ongoing negotiations with other suppliers. Applicants from Pfizer and Moderna will need to be approved by Health Canada.

“We have to remember that these vendors are at various stages of vaccine development. It is important for Canadians to know that we take an approach to contract negotiations that creates flexibility so that we can increase orders, ”said Anand.

“In the coming weeks, I hope to disclose more information. ”

There are currently 55 potential COVID-19 drugs, including candidate vaccines, currently in clinical trials authorized by Health Canada.

To be approved for use, any potential vaccine must go through a well-established testing process that includes three phases of human testing. The first and second phases focus on monitoring whether the drug is producing the desired response of the human immune system. The third phase involves many more test subjects and aims to determine whether the vaccine candidate is actually capable of preventing the virus from infecting a body.

Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains, who joined Anand for the announcement on Wednesday, highlighted the government’s efforts to diversify therapies, which he says will be addressed in one of two working groups that the Liberals set it up.

“Until we have immunized all Canadians, we must also focus on producing treatments for those who contract the virus,” he said. ” [The task force] will be co-chaired by Nancy Harrison, Director and Former President of LifeSciences BC and Cedric Bisson, Partner at Teralys Capital. ”

Bains also announced $ 56 million to support vaccine development in Canada through Variation Biotechnologies Inc. (VBI).

“Through the Strategic Fund for Innovation, the government will support VBI’s work on preclinical studies and clinical trials.” Other investments will follow, ”he said.

Bains and Anand said they would work closely with Minister of Health Patty Hajdu and Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam on a vaccine deployment plan, which will include decision making on the advisability of making vaccination compulsory or voluntary.

On Tuesday, Tam tried to temper expectations that developing a vaccine would mean the end of the coronavirus threat.

“We anticipate, as a public health community, that we will have to deal with this pandemic certainly within the next year, but it may be planning for the longer term over the next two to three years in which the vaccine may play a role. But we don’t know that yet, ”Tam told reporters during a routine press briefing on COVID-19.

Dr Howard Njoo, deputy chief public health officer, said a vaccine would not work like a “quick fix”.

Anand echoed his colleagues’ comments on Wednesday, saying there is no one-size-fits-all solution that will get Canadians out of the pandemic completely.

“Multiple efforts on several fronts must be made and monitored,” she said. “We all want a quick fix, but unfortunately this is not the case. So the approach of the Government of Canada and in particular of us to contracting has been to say, “Look, we need several contracts over several periods,” she said.

With files from CTV News’ Rachel Aiello and Ryan Flanagan

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