Canada's reliance on vaccines developed or even produced in other countries has been a story well told throughout this coronavirus pandemic, and one the federal government hopes is not repeated for any global health crisis in the future.
Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne announced a $200-million investment to upgrade existing facilities of Resilience Biotechnologies Inc. in Mississauga, Ont. The funds will expand Resilience's manufacturing and fill-finish capacity for a number of vaccines and therapeutics, including mRNA shots like the ones now being used to fight COVID-19, Champagne said.
The dependence on foreign sources for shots has seen Canada contend with the threat of export controls and vaccine nationalism, which limited the supply of vaccine doses in the early weeks of the national inoculation campaign.
As a result, the Liberal government has placed bets in a number of ways to try and alleviate that strain.
"To rebuild from this pandemic, we're investing in Canada — in workers, in innovation and in the future," said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Last fall, the federal government floated $173 million to help Medicago of Quebec City develop its COVID-19 vaccine and build a large plant to produce it. Medicago, which is developing the product in combination with GlaxoSmithKline, has reported positive early clinical trial data on its plant-derived vaccine.
In addition to the Resilience funding pledge and the Medicago commitment, the federal government has already promised some $455 million for a major expansion of Sanofi's Toronto plant, which will primarily produce flu shots but it can also be retooled to produce vaccines for coronaviruses. Once operational, Sanofi will be able to manufacture enough influenza vaccines for all Canadians each year at its Toronto facility.
The government says the plant expansion for Resilience will create 500 permanent jobs and 50 co-op placements for students, once construction is complete in 2024.
Moderna will ship seven million more vaccine doses to Canada this month, ending weeks of uncertainty over when the Massachusetts-based company would deliver the long-promised order.
Moderna has delivered 6.1 million doses to Canada already, but has routinely slashed deliveries or punted them to later dates since the beginning of the year, causing provincial and regional officials to be nimble in administering their vaccine campaigns. Starting next week, Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand said Wednesday, the deliveries will start to stabilize.
"To be clear, that is the minimum number of doses that we anticipate receiving in that timeframe," Anand said of the seven million.
Moderna has earmarked all U.S. production of its doses for the American marketplace until now, with Canada's previous batches coming from their European facilities.
But the U.S. is now awash in shots and demand for doses there is declining. So, for the first time, Moderna will be shipping its product to Canada from U.S.-based plants.
"Moderna will continue working hard to help protect Canadians from COVID and its variants," a spokesperson said in a statement.
Two days ago, the company said it had applied for emergency authorization use for its vaccine in adolescents after positive trial data. Should it get approved by Health Canada, Moderna would join Pfizer-BioNTech as the vaccines deemed suitable for use in Canadians as young as 12.
Meanwhile, Anand said that between planned Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine shipments, a total of 55.8 million vaccine doses is expected to be delivered to Canada between now and the end of July.