Canada Trudeau warns COVID-19 vaccine will come later to Canada than other countries

02:30  25 november  2020
02:30  25 november  2020 Source:   nationalpost.com

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OTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canadians won’t be front of the line when COVID-19 vaccines become available, because the first doses will be made outside of our borders.

“One of the things to remember is Canada no longer has any domestic production capacity for vaccines,” Trudeau said outside Rideau Cottage Tuesday. “Countries like the United States, Germany and the U.K. do have domestic pharmaceutical facilities which is why they’re obviously going to prioritize helping their citizens first.”

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Trudeau said Canada’s doses would follow shortly after, and he expects to see them in the first quarter of next year. But he said the first doses from the assembly line will go to the countries where the vaccine is made.

With promising news from several vaccine manufacturers, in recent weeks officials in those countries have said their citizenry could start receiving vaccines as early as December.

Trudeau said Canadians should expect to receive doses shortly after that point, but without a domestic manufacturing capacity, which the country hasn’t had for decades, there will be a delay.

He said that is why the government bought doses of so many potentially successful vaccines, and why it is reinvesting in domestic manufacturing.

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To limit the spread of COVID - 19 , travellers entering Canada must follow the rules set out by the emergency orders under the Quarantine Act. However, Canadians , persons with status under the Indian Act and permanent residents who have COVID - 19 symptoms are allowed to return to Canada .

“We have done everything we can to ensure that Canadians get these vaccines as quickly as possible and as effectively as possible.”

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said Trudeau’s delays will mean more hardship for Canadians.

“The prime minister told the House that Canadians would be first in line to receive the vaccine, but today he admitted we are going to be behind many countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany,” he said in the House of Commons. “How many more months will it take to flatten the curve because this prime minister has been unable to secure a vaccine?”

The government hasn’t released any of the contracts with vaccine manufacturers to indicate precisely where Canada is in the order of distribution and has said only that the country should expect doses in the first quarter of 2021, assuming the vaccines are approved by Health Canada.

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Conservative Health critic MP Michelle Rempel Garner said there is no reason why the government should have been caught off guard.

“The issue of domestic vaccine manufacturing supply was identified as an issue after the H1N1 pandemic,” she said. “This issue in and of itself should not have come as a surprise to the Prime Minister or to the Health Minister or to the Procurement Minister when looking at a COVID vaccine rollout plan.”

Andrew Casey, president and CEO of Biotech Canada an industry association, said the prime minister is partially right, especially with the leading candidates.

“For two of the three vaccines that we now know about, the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines, those are mRNA vaccines, which there is no manufacturing for that in Canada,” he said. “In fact, it’s very limited around the world because it’s such a novel vaccine.”

Casey said there is plenty of manufacturing capacity in Canada for making vaccines, but it uses different types of technology and can’t be easily switched to something different.

“One type of vaccine is like making wine and the other one is like making coke. Yes, they’re both put in bottles, and you can drink them with straws, but they’re very different processes.”

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He said the manufacturers in Canada also have other orders they are processing for the flu and for childhood vaccinations and couldn’t just scrap that production for COVID even if the technology was interchangeable. Given Canada’s limitations, Casey said, buying access to as many doses as possible from other countries was a good move.

Casey said for large pharmaceutical companies it will take more than just money to build facilities in Canada and the government will have to think about investments in research, drug pricing and regulations structures and other issues.

“You have to then start to think about your policy, your public policy environment for those companies in a more holistic way.”

Early in the pandemic, the government invested in two separate vaccine manufacturing facilities, one at the University of Saskatchewan’s VIDO-InterVac facility and another at a National Research Council facility in Montreal.

The Montreal facility received $44 million for upgrades and then another $126 million in August to build a manufacturing facility that will ultimately be able to produce millions of doses a month. The Saskatchewan facility received $12 million for its manufacturing capacity.

Dr. Paul Hodgson, associate director of the Saskatchewan facility, said they hope to have their manufacturing capacity ready late in 2021, but it is a complex process and bringing the equipment online takes time even once construction is complete.

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“It’s not a situation right now where we can take technologies that other people have and use them and it’s unfortunate,” he said.

He said in hindsight it would have been ideal to get funding years ago, but that is not the situation the country is in. He said the Canada should definitely learn from this situation and be prepared for the next potential virus.

“What we’re realizing now is that from a supply chain issue, and production capacity issue, that having national supply or national manufacturers or the capacity to manufacture nationally is very important.”

Industry Minister Navdeep Bains said unfortunately there were no simple solutions when it came to increasing manufacturing.

“We need to recognize that building these complex bio-manufacturing facilities takes time,” he said.

At the start of the pandemic, Canada made virtually no personal protective equipment inside our borders. Bains said the government has worked to change that and will do the same with vaccines.

“Approximately 50 per cent of the investments that we’re making in procurement are made-in-Canada solutions. We have the same mindset when it comes to building up our domestic bio-manufacturing capabilities.”

• Email: rtumilty@postmedia.com | Twitter: ryantumilty

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