'We are engaged with multiple suppliers and hedging our supply risks': Minister Anand
The federal government announced deals with Pfizer Canada Inc. and U.S. biotech firm Moderna Inc. on Wednesday to supply millions of doses of their COVID-19 vaccines to Canada, but questions around cost and precise supply volumes remain unanswered.
Both companies began Phase 3 clinical trials of their vaccine candidates in late July to determine their efficacy after earlier reporting positive results from smaller trials.
When pressed by reporters at a news conference Wednesday, Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand declined to specify the number of doses secured or the cost of the supply arrangements, which are subject to clinical success and approval from Health Canada.
According to a release issued by Pfizer Wednesday, its agreement with Canada would see deliveries of the vaccine it’s co-developing with BioNTech SE occur over the course of next year. The companies are hoping to begin the regulatory review process as early as October and are aiming to provide up to 100 million doses of the vaccine globally by the end of this year and about 1.3 billion doses by the end of 2021.
“We continue to be committed to partnering with the Canadian government to help fight this pandemic and are pleased with their collaborative approach to addressing a national COVID-19 immunization strategy with public health officials,” Pfizer Canada President Cole Pinnow said in a release.
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Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains, who joined Anand for the news conference, announced the federal government will invest $56 million to bolster vaccine development in Canada.
The announcements came one day after chief public health officer Theresa Tam warned against expecting a vaccine to provide a quick end to the pandemic, saying they provide hope but likely aren’t silver bullets for the novel coronavirus.
Canada wasn’t the only country to announce a major supply deal Wednesday. Johnson & Johnson Inc. said it has signed an agreement with the U.S. to deliver 100 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine.
Michael Gardam, Humber River Hospital chief of staff and an infectious diseases specialist, warned that there are risks involved in striking a vaccine deal before all phases of a clinical trial have been successfully completed.
“There is a chance that we’re going to sign up for a vaccine, which at the end, turns out isn’t the one that we really want. And, the one that we really want is the one everybody wants at the same time,” Gardam told BNN Bloomberg’s Anita Sharma in a television interview.
“Ottawa had to act because the way the world is these days [is] sort of ‘everyone for themselves.’ And, you worry about another country — for example the U.S. — cornering the market on the vaccine and us not being able to get access. So we kind of have to jump in early before we even have a final product.”
He added that the deals Ottawa struck were with two companies that have “reasonably good prospects.”
“But there really isn’t a guarantee at this point,” he said.
With files from The Canadian Press