Why Canada can’t make its own COVID-19 vaccine — and how to ‘fix’ the problem before the next pandemic
Nov 26, 2020 2 mins, 33 secs

If a COVID-19 vaccine is safe and gets approved, but there’s no one around to make it, does it still count.

It’s the question that sent sparks flying among federal politicians this week after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau admitted that Canadians are likely to be second in line after Americans when the companies with promising vaccines start handing out doses.

Furthermore, lacking the capacity to make vaccines, Canada has not even negotiated to right to manufacture doses of them here at home, meaning we’re now waiting on shipments from the companies, once they’re approved by Canadian regulators.

A member of Canada’s Vaccine Task Force — the group tasked with advising the government on locking down doses for Canadians — says our lack of manufacturing ability is the result of the “hollowing out” of the biopharmaceutical industry in this country over the past 25 years.

While it’s too late to be ready for the first run of COVID-19 vaccines, there will be no excuse the next time Canada and the world face a pandemic.

and, in the absence of COVID-19, there was no obvious, immediate need to have a national vaccine facility.

She has previously argued Trudeau lied about Canada’s ability to make vaccines, citing federal investments in facilities in Saskatchewan and Montreal, announced in the spring.

One of those was $44 million for upgrades to a National Research Council facility in Montreal that was initially expected to produce as many as 250,000 vaccine doses per month, though Trudeau said the facility is still under construction.

For context, Canada would eventually need somewhere in the neighbourhood of 70 million doses to vaccinate the whole country against COVID-19.

The Quebec-based biotechnology company has been given $173 million in federal money, not only for 76 million doses of its vaccine, should it prove successful, but to build a vaccine-production facility that is expected to come online in 2024.

The reason there is concern about who will get vaccines first, despite the fact that Canada has deals in hand, is that each agreement includes delivery windows, Bernstein said.

Officials have previously said that vaccine doses will likely arrive in stages, and Canada’s first shipments are scheduled to arrive during the first few months of 2021.

It’s not even really possible to decide those dates yet, he added, as much will depend on when vaccines are approved — each country will make the decision about whether to greenlight a vaccine for its own citizens.

Trudeau said the sites that Rempel Garner referenced can’t make mRNA vaccines and have a relatively small output

While he said it’s important Canada bolster the manufacturing capability for a future pandemic, it’s equally critical that this country support the brainpower that will invent it

For example, he said, one of the reasons the team from Oxford University was so fast out of the gate was it had access to a facility where it could make a small batch of experimental vaccines

He said Canada needs a national facility that can adapt to new technologies and be used to train new experts in the field

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