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Canada signs deal with Novavax to make COVID-19 vaccine in Montreal

Last Updated Feb 2, 2021 at 3:43 pm PDT

Summary

Canada has signed a memorandum of understanding with Novavax to produce doses of its new COVID-19 vaccine in Montreal

Under new deal, Novavax would produce COVID-19 vaccines at National Research Council facility being built in Quebec

Prime minister has announced investments to 'support vaccine, therapeutic, and biomanufacturing' in Canada

OTTAWA – Canada has secured a deal with Novavax to produce COVID-19 vaccines in this country.

So far, Canada has depended on foreign-based companies for its vaccine supply, however, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday that the federal government signed a memorandum of understanding with Novavax to produce its drug at a new National Research Council biomanufacturing facility.

The deal could help Trudeau tamp down the political headache caused by Canada’s skeletal vaccine production capacity.

However, the new NRC facility — which received $126 million in federal funding last summer — is still under construction. While Trudeau said funding has accelerated construction, work is only expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Novavax’s vaccine candidate is also awaiting Health Canada approval, which is likely at least two months away.

The prime minister did not provide a timeline for when Canadians can expect domestic production to begin, only that it would start soon after construction at the NRC facility was completed.

Trudeau also said Precision Nanosystems, a Vancouver-based biotechnology company, was on track to produce vaccines in Canada.

As part of funding announced to “support vaccine, therapeutic, and biomanufacturing projects in Canada,” Trudeau said Precision would get up to $25.1 million to “expand our ability to produce ribonucleic acid vaccines and future genetic medicines” domestically.

The Vancouver-based company is expected to build a $50.2 million production facility “capable of producing up to 240 million vaccine does yearly.”

Edesa Biotech, in Markham, Ontario, is also receiving funding, with up to $14 million expected to help the biopharmaceutical company “advance work on a monoclonal antibody therapy for acute respiratory distress syndrome, which is the leading cause of COVID-19 deaths,” a government release reads.

“Vaccines work. They are safe and effective. When it’s my turn, I’ll be ready to roll up my sleeve and get my doses,” Trudeau said.

Canada’s inability to produce any COVID-19 vaccines at home has left the country at the mercy of foreign governments, who could at any time slam the doors shut to vaccine exports until their own people are vaccinated.

That risk became ever more real this week as Europe’s new export controls on vaccines take hold, putting at risk Canada’s entire supply of COVID-19 vaccines.

Maryland-based Novavax applied Friday to start the regulatory review process for its experimental vaccine, after announcing a clinical trial in the United Kingdom showed it was more than 89 per cent effective against COVID-19.

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The trial in the U.K. showed significant effectiveness against both the original virus behind COVID-19, and the variant known as B. 1.17 that was first identified there. A smaller Phase 2 trial in South Africa showed the vaccine was also effective against a variant that first emerged there, known as B. 1.351.

More than half the COVID-19 cases identified in Novavax’s British trial were the B. 1.17 variant and 90 per cent of the cases in South Africa were B. 1.351.

Canada’s domestic vaccine production pretty much dried up in the 1980s and no government since has made the necessary investments to ramp it back up.