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Canada on verge of deal to make COVID-19 vaccines at home

MIA RABSON, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Feb 2nd, 2021

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to announce Tuesday the makings of an agreement to produce COVID-19 vaccines within Canada.

Industry Minister Francois-Phillipe Champagne tells The Canadian Press the government is moving quickly to start making COVID-19 vaccines itself, instead of being entirely reliant on foreign production for the most sought-after product in the world.

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

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 takes hold, putting at risk Canada’s entire supply of COVID-19 vaccines.

Champagne’s department and the National Research Council have been in talks with all the front-running vaccine makers in the world for months, trying to lure at least one of them to make some of their vaccines at the new facility, which is on track to be finished this summer.

None of those talks have borne any fruit until now.

“I have received positive feedback from some leading vaccine manufacturers in these discussions, and so we are moving full steam ahead to build Canada’s domestic production of vaccines,” said Champagne, in a statement to The Canadian Press.

The National Research Council was even rebuffed in offers to help all leading vaccine makers do research on scaling up their production processes to make the precious doses as fast as possible.

None of those offers was accepted.

Talks to do that with Novavax fell apart at the 11th hour last fall, right before an initial agreement for Canada to buy 52 million doses of Novavax’s vaccine was announced.

An email chain, released to the House of Commons health committee in the latest batch of documents on Canada’s pandemic response, shows a reference to the agreement was deleted from the memorandum of understanding with Novavax the day before the deal was made public.

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