Manitoba Is Canada’s First Province to Nab Home-Grown Vaccine

Manitoba has become the first Canadian province to procure its own Covid-19 vaccine locally after the federal government’s supply of overseas doses faced delays.

The Manitoba government said Thursday it will buy 2 million doses of a new mRNA Covid-19 vaccine developed by Providence Therapeutics, a private company based in Calgary, Alberta. The vaccine is in its first phase of clinical trials and the company is hoping to apply for the necessary federal approval for emergency use by autumn.

The agreement marks the first by a province in a nation that has vaccinated fewer than 1.2 million Canadians. The federal government has faced widespread criticism for lagging behind some other developed countries in the percentage of population inoculated so far.

“The number one limiting factor in administering life-saving immunizations to Canadians is the lack of a secure domestic vaccine supply made here in Canada,” Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister said in a news release.

“Today, we are reliant on the federal government buying vaccines from pharmaceutical companies located offshore,” he said. “The result has been Canadians receiving needed Covid-19 vaccines slower than almost 50 other countries, with weekly disruptions in supply.”

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Provinces are not permitted to import Covid vaccines as this can only be done by the federal government.

Through its agreement, Manitoba will receive the first 200,000 doses of the new vaccine when and if it is approved for sale in Canada. Emergent BioSolutions Inc. will manufacture and fill vials at its Winnipeg facility, the Manitoba government said.

“We expect to be announcing more purchases from other provinces in the coming days,” said Brad Sorenson, founder and chief executive officer of Providence Therapeutics. “We needed to secure deals with deposits so we could start manufacturing on spec, so if we have approval, we’re ready to roll those vaccines out.”

Sorenson declined to provide the cost to provinces on the vaccine.

In an open letter to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the company asked for C$150 million ($118 million) to help pay for the trials and material costs.

“We’re not seeking federal assistance, we’re seeking a buyer,” Sorenson said, adding that he has not received a response from the government.

There have been no significant health issues with the 60 people involved in the current first phase of clinical trials, and the efficacy will not be known until April. Second and third phases will involve approximately 3,000 people, expected to begin in May, and vaccine production is targeted to begin in July, Sorenson said.

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