Premiers working to establish inter-provincial task force on domestic vaccine supply: Jason Kenney
CALGARY -- With an order of 50 million doses needed before an Alberta company can build a production facility, leaders from across Canada are working to establish an inter-provincial task force on domestic vaccine supply, Premier Jason Kenney said Thursday.
Manitoba announced Thursday that province has ordered two million doses of vaccine from Calgary-based Providence Therapeutics — which also has operations in Toronto — and Kenney was asked whether Alberta had similar plans.
"The president of Providence Therapeutics tells me that they would only be able to establish a domestic production facility in Canada if they got orders for 50 million doses," said Kenney.
"That's five-zero, 50 million doses. So this would require … an order of that scale would obviously require cooperation across the country.
"Neither Manitoba alone with two million, or Alberta with a few million more, would have an adequate market to satisfy the minimum requirements that Providence has expressed to establish domestic production here.
"And of course we need domestic production, so the bottom line is we are absolutely open – more than open – we are pursuing domestic production and potential supply because we apparently cannot count reliably on the federal program to produce doses from around the world."
Providence Therapeutics is currently in Phase 2 trials of its mRNA vaccine, anticipating approval and distribution by the fall.
“We have the ability to do that medically in Canada, its a no brainer, “ said Providence CEO Brad Sorensen. "And if (provinces) don’t need the doses I deliver, we’ll re-sell them into the international community. If we do need them, those premiers will look like geniuses.”
Providence has been lobbying Ottawa for months, trying to get funding and approval to pursue its made-in-Canada vaccine
But its says the support it received, including financial grants, pales compared to what the government offered foreign companies such as Pfizer and AstraZeneca.
Now that shipments of vaccines have been dramatically delayed, Sorensen says premiers are approaching his company as a a back-up.
“Once we announced we were in phase 1, I started getting calls,” he said. “And they notified me while they can’t purchase anything imported into Canada, there is nothing preventing them from securing vaccines made domestically.”
Kenney said another Alberta company is also in Phase 1 of clinical trials.
"So we're well into doing our due diligence on this, and as I say, we've been leading the way in cooperating with other provinces but a small order by ourselves would not be adequate to secure domestic production should Providence get to Phase 3 trials and Health Canada approval," said Kenney.
Delivery of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines has been plagued by delays since Alberta first began receiving shipments in late December.
On Wednesday, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said about 135,000 doses of vaccine have been administered so far, and about 42,000 people — including about 71 per cent of residents in long-term care facilities — have received the two doses required.
Hinshaw said 351 new cases of COVID-19 had been identified in the last 24 hours and there are now 156 cases of the variants, up from 120 the day before, which marked the highest one-day jump of variant cases so far.
Alberta is in its first phase of vaccine rollout, targeting seniors living in in continuing care and frontline health-care workers. A plan for future phases has yet to be released.
With files from CTV Calgary's Chris Epp