Canada to produce COVID-19 vaccines in Montreal and Vancouver

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      This week, British Columbia is experiencing delays in its immunization program, as shipments of COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna have been temporarily suspended or unexpectedly reduced.

      However, efforts are underway to support vaccine production in Canada so that the country isn't as dependent on sources from abroad. 

      Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced today (February 2) that the federal government has struck a deal with pharmaceutical company Novavax to produce its COVID-19 vaccine in Montreal.

      Speaking to reporters at a news conference today, the PM said Ottawa has signed a “memorandum of understanding” to produce the vaccine domestically pending its approval by Health Canada.

      Calling the deal “a major step forward,” Trudeau said tens of millions of doses would be produced at the facility, which is under construction and scheduled to open in July.

      The National Research Council's Biologics Manufacturing Centre being built in Montréal, where the vaccine will be produced, received $126 million in federal funding in August. The new centre will be capable of producing approximately 24 million doses per year.

      Novavax submitted its vaccine candidate to Health Canada last week. The country has ordered up to 76 million doses.

      Trudeau also announced a $25.1 million domestic production deal with Vancouver-based biotechnology company Precision NanoSystems for its vaccine. However, that $50.2 million facility is not slated for completion until March 2023. Once up and running, it will produce 240 million doses per year, Trudeau said.

      The government is also providing $14 million to Edesa Biotech in Markham, Ontario, for its $18.7 million project to develop a monoclonal antibody therapy for acute respiratory distress syndrome, which is the leading cause of COVID-19 deaths. Health Canada has approved Edesa to conduct its phase 2 clinical trials.

      Meanwhile, the University of Saskatchewan's Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization received federal funding of $46 million in 2020 to boost COVID-19 research and vaccine development, and the construction of its pilot-scale manufacturing facility (to be completed by the end of 2021). This facility will be able to produce up to 40 million doses each year.