Canada says it has signed a tentative agreement with US vaccine firm Novavax to produce millions of doses of its Covid-19 vaccine candidate at a facility in Montreal.
The agreement, announced Tuesday by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, is the first of several being developed as Canada says it intends to repatriate vaccine production for decades to come.
“What we’re very clear on is Canada will be developing domestic manufacturing, so regardless of what could happen in the future, we will have domestic production on top of all our partnerships and contracts signed with companies around the world,” said Trudeau during a news conference in Ottawa Tuesday.
He added that it was important for Canada to be “self-sufficient” in vaccine production.
Novavax is still doing clinical trials of its vaccine but submitted more data to Health Canada for review Friday. Canada has an agreement to buy 52 million doses from Novavax when and if its vaccine candidate receives Canadian approval.
Approval is not expected for weeks and any domestic production of vaccines won’t happen until fall, at the earliest.
That still leaves Canada with a significant shortage of vaccines in the short term. Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are the only vaccines so far approved for use in Canada.
Both of those vaccine suppliers have significantly slowed deliveries to Canada after a combination of manufacturing delays and demands from Europe, where Canada procures its doses, to restrict vaccine exports subject to EU approval.
Canada did not attempt to procure any vaccine doses from the US after the Trump administration indicated it would not allow any vaccines to be exported.
According to public health data from the provinces and the federal government, just over 2% of Canada’s population has received at least 1 dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.
Provinces in Canada, who are responsible for vaccine distribution, are growing frustrated as mass vaccination sites are ready, but in many cases sit “empty” awaiting vaccine doses.
“They have the capacity of several thousand each per day and the possibility to ramp up past that so all of us are a little disappointed, a little frustrated, and chomping at the bit to do more and get the vaccines to us,” said retired general Rick Hillier, now leading Ontario’s vaccine task force.
He added that he has lost confidence in the Pfizer supply chain as doses that were promised to Canada were not delivered.