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Canada signs deal with Novavax to make its COVID-19 vaccine at new Montreal facility

Canadian vax deal signed

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to announce today a deal with Novavax to produce doses of its new COVID-19 vaccine at a new National Research Council biomanufacturing facility in Montreal.

More details are expected on making some COVID-19 therapeutic drugs at other facilities in Canada.

The deal could help Trudeau tamp down the political headache caused by Canada's skeletal vaccine production capacity.

But Novavax's vaccine is likely at least two months away from being approved in Canada, while the NRC facility is still under construction and designed to produce only about two million doses a month.

Canada has a deal to buy 52 million doses from Novavax after it is approved by Health Canada.

Canada's inability to produce any COVID-19 vaccines at home has left the country at the mercy of foreign governments, who could at any time slam the doors shut to vaccine exports until their own people are vaccinated.

That risk became ever more real this week as Europe's new export controls on vaccines take hold, putting at risk Canada's entire supply of COVID-19 vaccines.

All doses from the currently approved vaccines being produced by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are being made in Europe.

Maryland-based Novavax applied Friday to start the regulatory review process for its experimental vaccine, after announcing a clinical trial in the United Kingdom showed it was more than 89 per cent effective against COVID-19.

The trial in the U.K. showed significant effectiveness against both the original virus behind COVID-19, and the variant known as B. 1.17 that was first identified there. A smaller Phase 2 trial in South Africa showed the vaccine was also effective against a variant that first emerged there, known as B. 1.351.

The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines have shown potential in lab tests against the variants, which are believed to spread more easily and may cause more serious illness. However, the trials that led to those vaccines being approved were completed before the variants had been identified.

More than half the COVID-19 cases identified in Novavax's British trial were the B. 1.17 variant and 90 per cent of the cases in South Africa were B. 1.351.

The federal department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and the National Research Council have been in talks with all the front-running vaccine makers in the world for months, trying to lure at least one of them to make some of their vaccines at the new facility, which is on track to be finished this summer.

None of those talks have borne any fruit until now.

"I have received positive feedback from some leading vaccine manufacturers in these discussions, and so we are moving full steam ahead to build Canada's domestic production of vaccines," said Industry Minister Francois-Phillippe Champagne, in a statement to The Canadian Press.



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