Canada will not be first in line for COVID-19 vaccines, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said during his morning briefing in front of Rideau Cottage on Tuesday (Nov. 24).
“We recognize the disadvantage Canada has of not having a domestic pharmaceutical industry capable of making the vaccines,” Trudeau said.
“We have secured tens of million of doses of many different kinds of vaccines.”
Canada has secured deals with all three vaccine candidates currently showing high efficacy in late stage trials: AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna.
“We’re expecting to start receiving those doses in the first few months of 2021,” Trudeau said, but noted that the citizens of the countries manufacturing the vaccines will likely get the first doses before they are shipped internationally.
Trudeau said that in the future, Canada would ramp up its own vaccine manufacturing “because we never want to be caught short again, without the ability to support Canadians directly.”
The federal government announced in August that it was contributing $120 million over two years to build a biomanufacturing facility in Montreal that includes the National Research Council.
During a separate news conference, Public Procurement Minister Anita Anand said Canada has signed contracts for more doses per capita than any country in the world and that efforts are now underway to prepare for their arrival in the next few months.
That involves buying 126 freezers, including 26 ultracold ones, to hold millions of doses of vaccines. Ottawa is also seeking private bidders to run the logistics and considering what role the military could play. The country also signed a deal with pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly for an initial order of up to 26,000 doses of their COVID-19 antibody therapy Bamlanivimab. The drug is a monoclonal antibody designed to block the virus from attaching to and entering human cells, thus potentially preventing the virus from causing COVID-19 illness. The treatment was developed in collaberation with with AbCellera Biologics, a Vancouver-based technology company that searches, decodes and analyzes natural immune systems to find antibodies that can be developed to prevent and treat disease.
Canada continued to see new COVID-19 cases and deaths, with more than 1,000 each from Ontario and Quebec. Last week saw more than 5,050 new cases nationwide each day, with about 2,000 people hospitalized each day with the virus. An average of 70 people died due to COVID-19 each day last week.
“There are more regions of the country with high infection rates,” Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said Tuesday.
“And it is clear that COVID-19 knows no bounds. Communities, jurisdictions and whole regions that were little, if at all, impacted in the past (are) now seeing community spread. Some areas are experiencing very high rates of infection for the first time.”
– with files from The Canadian Press
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