COVID-19: Canada Announces Deals for Vaccines Showing Promise in Protecting Against the Virus
The Canadian government has sealed deals with two big drug makers to secure millions of doses of vaccines showing promise in protecting against the virus. Photo: FilippoBacci/ E+ via Getty Images
There’s good news on the COVID-19 front — the Canadian government has sealed deals with two big drug makers to secure millions of doses of vaccines showing promise in protecting against the respiratory illness.
Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand announced Wednesday morning that Ottawa has contracted pharmaceutical giant Pfizer for its BNT162 mRNA-based vaccine candidate and biotechnology firm Moderna for its mRNA-1273 vaccine candidate.
“These vaccine candidates are very promising and we all look forward to the day when restrictions can be lifted entirely,” Anand said at a press conference in Toronto. “However there is more work to do. Any potential vaccine candidate will take time to develop, properly test, mass manufacture and distribute.”
She emphasized that the government isn’t putting all its eggs in one basket, but that her team is focused on a diversified supply chain “in order to deliver safe and effective vaccines to Canadians as quickly as possible.”
Both vaccine candidates went into Phase 3 clinical trials last week, during which they will be tested on a large sample of volunteers to determine how well they promote an immune response to the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. There are currently more than 166 coronavirus vaccine candidates around the world with six in the Phase 3 stage, according to the World Health Organization.
Although development is happening at an accelerated pace, experts predict we are still 12 to 18 months away from seeing an approved vaccine.
“The contracts reflect the requirement for Health Canada approval, and in particular, once that has occurred, we are expecting deliveries, if all goes well, in 2021,” Anand said.
The Front of the Line
Of course Canada’s not the only country in bed with Pfizer. The U.S. government struck a deal with the company last month to secure the first 100 million doses of its vaccine — the company has four candidates in development — in December of this year.
Anand wouldn’t confirm just how many but said the Canadian agreements will be for “millions of doses,” adding that “Canadians are at the front of the line when a vaccine becomes available.”
A day earlier, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam urged cautious optimism around a potential COVID-19 vaccine. We shouldn’t expect it to be a “silver bullet,” she said, and that public health measures will continue to be recommended even after a successful vaccine is rolled out.
Anand echoed her sentiment, urging Canadians to keep up the physical distancing, hand washing and wearing masks in public to prevent the spread of the virus while we await a vaccine.
Willing to Get It?
Of course herd immunity to COVID-19 would require that nearly the world’s entire population either get exposed to it or get inoculated once there is an effective vaccine against it.
According to survey results released Tuesday by Angus Reid, only half of Canadians said they would get vaccinated as soon as one is available. Nearly a third of respondents said they would wait but would eventually get the vaccine, while 14 per cent said they do not intend to get vaccinated.
There was more consensus, however, about whether a COVID-19 vaccine be made mandatory in long-term care residences and for health-care workers — three-quarters of Canadians say that it should.