Dependent on foreign jabs, Canada invests in vaccine production

Ottawa (AFP) –


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday announced an investment of nearly Can$200 million (US$166 million) in an Ontario facility that will be capable of producing millions of mRNA vaccines like the shots being used to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

The investment in Resilience Biotechnologies, the Canadian subsidiary of US firm National Resilience, should help Canada become less reliant on foreign-made vaccines, as it has been during the current Covid-19 crisis.

The expansion of the Resilience Biotech plant in Mississauga is "essential to be prepared to face any future health crisis," Trudeau told a news conference.

Canada currently has no domestic vaccine production, and so has depended on imports of Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and other jabs to inoculate its 38 million people against coronavirus.

Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne said the government investment in Resilience -- about half of the total project costs -- will support the development of "medical countermeasures to Covid-19 and strengthen Canada's emergency preparedness for future pandemics."

Once the expansion of the Resilience factory is completed in 2024, the plant will be able to manufacture between 112 and 640 million vaccine doses each year.

It will also create 500 new jobs and anchor Canada's plans to boost its biomanufacturing and life sciences sector. To this end, Ottawa earmarked in its budget unveiled last month a total of Can$2.2 billion.

The Canadian government has already recently committed significant funding in support of similar projects from other groups such as French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi and Canadian biotech firm Medicago.

Medicago earlier reported positive interim results from mid-stage trials of its plant-derived Covid-19 vaccine candidate.

Sanofi's expanded Toronto plant will primarily produce flu shots -- enough for all Canadians -- but can also be retooled to produce coronavirus vaccines.