Ottawa announces influenza vaccine agreement with GlaxoSmithKline

Feds sign influenza shot deal

In preparation for future pandemic and seasonal flu seasons, the federal government announced Friday it has signed a new deal with GlaxoSmithKline for influenza vaccines.

Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos announced a four-year pact to produce and deliver pandemic influenza vaccines for Canadians, with five one-year options to follow.

Canada has had a deal with GlaxoSmithKline for influenza vaccines since 2001. The new agreement, which took effect July 1, was announced at GSK Canada in Quebec City, which employs 900 people.

Duclos said the deal includes an option to procure 80 million doses of influenza vaccine if a pandemic occurs and a minimum of four million doses annually to be used in publicly funded vaccination programs.

He said by doing business with the only self-sufficient Canadian supplier of pandemic flu vaccines in the country, Canada is protecting itself against potential obstacles.

"By using domestic production right here in Canada, we can ensure Canada's supply is not jeopardized by border closures, trade disruptions, transportation issues or shipping delays," Duclos said. Due to confidentiality, Duclos said he could not discuss dollar figures attached to the contract.

Historically, influenza pandemics have occurred every 11 to 40 years, the most recent being the H1N1 pandemic in 2009.

The first influenza vaccine deliveries for 2022 are scheduled for September and October.

Duclos said if there's one lesson to be learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is the critical importance of vaccination.

He took advantage of Friday's announcement to emphasize the importance of getting a booster shot of COVID-19 vaccine. Canada had a high uptake for first and second doses but is behind all other G7 countries, with the exception of the United States, when it comes to a third dose.

Duclos said up-to-date vaccination reduces the risk of infection, transmission, hospitalization and long COVID.

"By some estimates, vaccination has saved about 20 million lives worldwide in 2021," Duclos said.

He also welcomed Health Canada's approval Thursday of the Moderna vaccine for children aged six months to five years old and encouraged parents to get their young children vaccinated.

He sought to reassure parents who have concerns, noting the studies involving the vaccine are "very solid" and that experts believe it is very safe and effective at reducing risk of severe disease.

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