PM unveils deal with Novavax to produce its COVID-19 vaccine in Canada


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says a deal has been struck with Novavax to produce its COVID-19 vaccine in Canada, but the pharmaceutical company won’t be ready to roll out doses for several months.

The federal government has signed a “memorandum of understanding” with Novavax to pursue options to produce its COVID-19 vaccine at a new Montreal facility that is under construction.

While the prime minister is calling this a “major step forward,” it could be months before this potential made-in-Canada vaccine candidate is approved, let alone shipped to delivery sites nationwide. This is because the new National Research Council biomanufacturing facility where the production will happen isn’t set to be completed until July.

Once the new facility is up and running, it’s designed to produce around two million doses a month and, should the Novavax vaccine be deemed safe and effective, Trudeau says “tens of millions” of doses will be made domestically.

The federal government has a deal with the Maryland-based company to purchase up to 76 million doses of its vaccine candidate.

“We need as much domestic capacity for vaccine production as possible,” Trudeau said Tuesday.

Novavax submitted its vaccine candidate to Health Canada for approval late last week.

Trudeau has also announced that a second company, Precision NanoSystems, is “on track” to manufacture vaccines domestically, but in 2023 at the earliest.

The prime minister announced $25.1 million for the Vancouver-based biotechnology company, which is in the process of building a $50.2 million biomanufacturing centre “to produce vaccines and therapeutics for the prevention and treatment of diseases such as infectious diseases, rare diseases, cancer and other areas of unmet need,” according to the government.

The government says the project proposal was reviewed by the COVID-19 joint biomanufacturing subcommittee. Its target date for completion is March 2023, and at that point it would have the capacity to produce up to 240 million doses of its self-amplifying ribonucleic acid (RNA) COVID 19 vaccine every year.

This news comes as the federal government has been facing numerous questions over the lack of capacity to produce COVID-19 vaccines domestically, and reliance on other countries to deliver the currently approved vaccines.

“We knew that there would be some hurdles along the way with unpredictability and increased demand for production,” Trudeau said. “It’s why we secured as many options as possible… and it’s why we invested in vaccine development and manufacturing here at home.”

With both European manufacturers Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna sending smaller deliveries of their COVID-19 vaccines to Canada this week, exacerbating the ongoing dose shortage nationwide, the move to become more self-reliant on vaccine manufacturing provides an eventual new avenue for domestic vaccine supply.

Though it remains to be seen whether this new deal will assist the federal government significantly in its goal of having all Canadians who want to be, vaccinated by the end of September.

-- with files from CTV News --