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COVID-19 vaccine not expected until ‘sometime’ in 2021: Trudeau

Friday, October 23, 2020 @ 4:09 PM | By Terry Davidson

Ottawa is investing hundreds of millions in the development of made-in-Canada COVID-19 vaccines — but it is not expected one will be made available until sometime in 2021.

That is what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had to say during an Oct. 23 press conference, where he announced his Liberal government will be investing $214 million in the development of Canadian-made vaccines.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

According to a government news release, the money will be divided up between a handful of projects currently in the works.

Up to $173 million will go Quebec-based vaccine developer Medicago to advance its “virus-like particle vaccine” and create a large-scale production facility in Quebec City. Ottawa has also secured an agreement with the company for 76 million doses of its COVID-19 “vaccine candidate,” which would be enough to treat 38 million people.

Up to $18.2 million will be invested in Vancouver-based biotech company Precision NanoSystems Incorporated to support a project to advance the development of a vaccine candidate via pre-clinical studies and clinical trials.

And $23.2 million will be given via the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program to six early-stage COVID-19 vaccine candidates currently being developed in various parts of the country.

“From Dartmouth to Burnaby, Canadian researchers are going great work, and we’re here to support them,” said Trudeau.

According to the release, Ottawa has now signed agreements with AstraZeneca, Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Novavax, Pfizer and Moderna to secure access to “up to 358 million doses of their different COVID-19 vaccine candidates.”

“At this time, there are three vaccine candidates currently under review and many others in clinical trials and in development,” it states.

Trudeau later said that despite the government having these agreements and continuing to work with other countries towards obtaining a vaccine, Canadians should not expect to see one by the end of this year, or even early in 2021.  

“Canada has an excellent portfolio of vaccine potentials, but we also know nobody’s got that vaccine yet,” he said. “There are still trials going on … but we’re waiting to ensure that those vaccines are effective and … safe for Canadians. Nothing will be distributed in Canada until Health Canada is … certain that the safety of Canadians is being properly covered. … We are hopeful that the vaccines will arrive ‘yesterday,’ but they won’t. There are still a number of … months of work to do. I think that reasonable expectations [are] that vaccines could start to arrive sometime in the new year. But, even then, there will be small amounts of doses that will have to be distributed to priority populations — I think of our most vulnerable or our frontline workers. We have experts busy evaluating exactly how, where and in which way to distribute these vaccines [and] will … be working closely with provinces and territories to ensure that it’s done the right way.”

Apropos of this, the news release notes “[a]ll vaccine candidates must go through pre-clinical and clinical trials” and that Health Canada will continue to evaluate “evidence of safety, efficacy, and manufacturing quality for each vaccine candidate as it becomes available to decide whether the product will be approved for use in Canada.”

Trudeau’s announcement came in the wake of a dark milestone in the country’s battle against the spread of COVID-19, with 2,788 new cases being diagnosed on Oct. 22.

“Yesterday, Canada had the highest ever number of new cases of COVID-19. We have to get these numbers down. This is serious and everybody must do their part. Your loved ones with pre-existing conditions, your parents, your grandparents are counting on you. Our frontline workers, our nurses and doctors, they’re counting on you, too. People’s lives are at stake. We can’t afford to be careless or think that this virus will just go away on its own. So, please, keep following local public health guidelines.”

As of Oct. 23, there had been 209,148 cases of the virus in Canada, including 9,862 deaths.

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