Prime Minister Justin Trudeau cautioned Canadians that a successful COVID-19 vaccine likely won’t be ready this year or even early in the new year as he announced an additional $214-million in spending on Canadian-made vaccines Friday.
“We are hopeful the vaccines will arrive yesterday, but they won’t. There’s still a number of more months of work to do,” Mr. Trudeau told reporters. “I think that reasonable expectations is that vaccines could start to arrive some time in the new year, but even then, there will be smaller amounts of doses that will have to be distributed to priority populations.”
Mr. Trudeau said vulnerable populations and front-line workers will be given priority access to the vaccines once they are ready.
“We have experts busy evaluating exactly how and where and in which way to distribute these vaccines. We will of course be working closely with provinces and territories to ensure that it’s done the right way,” he said.
Friday’s funding announcement included up to $173-million for the Quebec biopharmaceutical company Medicago Inc., including support to create a production facility in Quebec City. The Quebec company has also reached an agreement with Ottawa to supply up to 76 million doses of its vaccine, should it be approved for use.
"This is about securing potential vaccines for Canadians, while supporting good jobs in research,” Mr. Trudeau said.
Mr. Trudeau announced the funding at a news conference on Parliament Hill.
The Prime Minister also announced that Precision NanoSystems, a Vancouver-based biotech company, will receive up to $18.2-million for development and testing of a vaccine candidate. The government also announced over $23-million in funding for “earlier-stage” vaccine candidates being developed across the country.
“Canada has direct agreements with a range of vaccine developers for their most promising candidates,” Mr. Trudeau said. “When a vaccine is ready, Canada will be too.”
The federal government has previously announced agreements with several companies to secure access to their COVID-19 vaccines should they prove successful and receive approval for use in Canada. These companies include AstraZeneca, Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Novavax, Pfizer and Moderna.
In a news release, the federal government said full payments to drug companies are contingent on the vaccines passing clinical trials and obtaining regulatory approval. All contracts the government signs with vaccine developers “contain off-ramps and exit provisions,” the government said.
World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said earlier this month that there is hope that “by the end of this year, we may have a vaccine.”
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