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Feds announce purchase agreements to buy vaccines against COVID-19

No firm announcement on costs, but Ottawa has already invested nearly $1.5 billion in preparing vaccine program

The federal government has announced purchase agreements with several large pharmaceutical companies for the supply of vaccines to fend off the coronavirus.

But the government declined to say at this time how much money is being spent or give a precise figure on the number of vaccine doses being purchased as cost negotiations are still underway. 

The news was announced via teleconference in Ottawa this morning by federal public services and procurement minister Anita Anand and federal innovation, science and industry minister Navdeep Bains. 

Anand said while Canada is working toward economic recovery, the government is looking to the next step.

"At the same time we are increasingly focused on the next stage of our recovery, especially preparing Canada for mass vaccinations.  Canada is pursuing agreements with a number of international and domestic companies to guarantee a supply date of potential vaccines," said Anand.

"I am pleased to announce the Government of Canada has entered into agreements with Pfizer and Moderna to secure millions of doses of the vaccine candidates. We are extremely pleased to be among the first countries to establish these agreements," she said.

Anand said Pfizer is working on four new vaccines and is currently going through clinical trials in several countries including the United States and Germany. Moderna is also doing clinical trials. 

"These agreements with Moderna and Pfizer are indicative of our aggressive approach to secure access to vaccine candidates now so that Canadians are at the front of the line when a vaccine becomes available," she added. 

Anand said despite the purchase agreements, any vaccine will still take time to be developed and tested, manufactured and distributed. All this will require Health Canada approval prior to public distribution, she said.

As part of the preparations, Anand added that her ministry is also actively working to stock a supply of syringes and alcohol swabs that will be needed to support vaccine clinics.

Science and industry minister Bains said the government has set up a blue-chip panel of scientists making up Canada's vaccine task force. Bains announced that Ottawa is investing the first installment of nearly $56-million to support pre-clinical vaccine trials and studies.

"We are also making sure we will be able to produce a vaccine at the scale necessary to protect all Canadians," said Bains. He said this would happen "as soon as possible."

In a follow-up teleconference question and answer session, neither Bains nor Anand could provide an answer on how much money the vaccine procurement agreements would cost.

Anand said the current dosage cost is being kept confidential because Canada is taking a prudent approach while negotiations are underway with other suppliers. She said Canada is negotiating firm orders with the option to increase the orders should the need arise. 

Earlier in the news conference, Bains did mention that in April the federal government announced a $1.1 billion funding for vaccine development, treatment, research and production. He said Canada also provided $115 million to fund vaccine research, and an additional $175 million for antibody therapy and treatment.

About the Author: Len Gillis, local journalism initiative reporter

Len Gillis is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter at covering health care in northeastern Ontario and the COVID-19 pandemic.
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