Canada “not at the back of the pack” for COVID-19 vaccine, says Moderna president

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Head of U.S. biotech company developing one of the most promising COVID-19 vaccine candidates says Canada is not far behind other countries when it comes to receiving doses of its vaccine.
“Canada is not at the back of the pack,” said Noubar Afeyan, co-founder and president of Moderna, CBC chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton, on Sunday.

Afeyan said that because Canada was among the first countries to pre-order with Moderna, the country is guaranteed to receive a certain portion of the company’s initial batch of doses – as long as the vaccine is found to be safe and effective and receives regulatory approval.

“People who were ready to go early with even less evidence of effectiveness ensured the amount of supply they were prepared to take,” Afeyan said in an interview with Rosemary Barton Live.

“Nothing that happened subsequently can affect that. ”

The Canadian government secured an agreement on August 5 with Moderna for 20 million doses of its mRNA vaccine, with the possibility of purchasing 36 million additional doses. It is one of seven vaccine manufacturers with which Canada currently has agreements.

Moderna’s vaccine is currently in stage 3 clinical trials and preliminary data released two weeks ago showed it appears to be 94.5% effective.

Despite this promising news, the Liberal government has come under intense pressure this week to set a timeline for when Canadians will start receiving vaccinations, as countries like the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany have all announced their intention to start vaccinating their populations in December.

Opposition politicians and some prime ministers have argued that Canada is lagging behind other countries in its planning after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canadians should wait to get vaccinated because the first doses of any vaccine will go to people in countries where vaccines are made.

Federal officials said Thursday that if all goes well, as many as three million Canadians – mostly those in “high priority groups” – could be vaccinated in early 2021.

Regulatory approval pending

Moderna is in the process of applying for emergency use authorization from the United States Food and Drug Administration. Once the company obtains this clearance, Afeyan said it will begin shipping doses to countries that have made pre-orders, including Canada.

Afeyan said he plans to start shipping the vaccine to Canada in the first quarter of 2021, and the amount of shipments is expected to increase in the second quarter and throughout the rest of the year.

The company expects to be able to produce a total of 20 million doses by the end of 2020 and between 500 million and 1 billion doses throughout 2021.

Moderna submitted preclinical and preclinical safety data from Phase 1 and 2 trials with Health Canada last month as part of the regulator’s ongoing regulatory review process. Health Canada must approve any COVID-19 vaccine before it can be distributed to Canadians.

Experts say Moderna’s vaccine – which requires two injections taken 28 days apart – will be relatively easy to store and dispense because the vaccine can remain stable at normal refrigerator temperatures of 2 ° C to 8 ° C for 30 days. In contrast, another prominent candidate made by US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer is to be shipped and stored at -70 ° C.

WATCH | The Minister of Health explains how the federal government should approach vaccine hesitancy:

Health Minister Patty Hadju says some hesitation around a new vaccine is “normal” and stresses the value of regulatory independence. 10:42

Health Minister Patty Hajdu said it was difficult to set a delivery date at this time for one of the main vaccine candidates due to the long list of uncertainties arising from unfinished clinical trials, reviews regulatory challenges and manufacturing and logistics challenges related to distribution.

“We are all anxious to come out of this mess as a world, but certainly as a country too,” Hajdu said.

“As Canada’s Minister of Health, I remain focused on Canadians and our own process, ensuring that our delivery plans are well defined and that we have what we need to be able to deliver. a variety of types of vaccines. . ”

Hajdu added that his top priority is to ensure that Health Canada has what it needs to make sure the regulatory process runs smoothly so that all approved vaccines are safe and effective.

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