Canadian Manufacturing

COVID-19 task force health advisor advocates for Canadian vaccine manufacturing

With new variants of the novel coronavirus emerging, Canadians might need multiple vaccines for several years.

February 1, 2021  The Canadian Press

A leading Canadian health expert on the federal government’s COVID-19 Task Force says the pandemic should be viewed as a wake-up call for Canada to create its own domestic vaccine manufacturing capacity.

Dr. Alan Bernstein says that with new variants of the novel coronavirus emerging, Canadians might need multiple vaccines for several years.

“The government’s made hints of doing it. But I think the sooner we get on with it, the better,” Bernstein, who is also the head of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR), said in an interview on Jan. 29.

“We need domestic vaccine production capacity in the country for the next pandemic, and also for this pandemic. If there are variants arising, we may be designing second, third-generation vaccines and vaccinating the population for the next two or three years.”

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On Jan. 29, Moderna announced that production delays would cut into its upcoming deliveries of vaccine doses to Canada. That followed Pfizer and BioNTech having cancelled an entire shipment of its COVID-19 vaccine to Canada this week, after reducing its previous shipment by 20 per cent, due to a temporary slowdown while its production facility in Belgium is being upgraded.

Bernstein said “hiccups” are to be expected with vaccine shipments, but that shouldn’t prevent the government from pressuring pharmaceutical companies to ensure timely deliveries.

“It’s one thing to do a trial where you’re making enough vaccine to vaccinate 60,000 people. It’s a totally different matter when you’re scaling up to vaccinate not just 35 million Canadians, but about a billion people in western Europe and North America, never mind the rest of the world,” said Bernstein.

If Pfizer and Moderna make good on delivering their combined promise of six million doses by the end of March, that is going to put immense pressure on the federal government and the provinces to finish carrying out timely vaccinations of as many as three million people in the next eight weeks, said Bernstein.