Canadian province Manitoba buys COVID-19 vaccine candidate, bypassing national government

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) – The Canadian province of Manitoba said on Thursday it will buy 2 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine candidate now in early trials, bypassing the national government.

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The province’s government has agreed to buy the doses from Alberta-based Providence Therapeutics, Premier Brian Pallister said. The company is developing a candidate similar to those produced by Pfizer Inc and Moderna Inc.

The premier of Alberta also said his government is pursuing vaccine supplies because of delays in the federal government procuring doses internationally.

If approved by the regulator, Health Canada, Providence would supply Manitoba with its first 200,000 doses next year. Pallister did not release financial terms.

Health Canada officials could not be immediately reached for comment.

In total, Manitoba will buy 2 million doses for the province of 1.4 million people. Emergent BioSolutions would manufacture the doses and fill vials at its plant in Winnipeg.

Pallister, a Progressive Conservative, has been critical of Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for not delivering vaccines fast enough.

Canada’s rate of vaccination lags far behind rates per capita in the United States, the United Kingdom and other countries, but the number of new infections is dropping sharply amid widespread health restrictions.

“Canada first is in danger of becoming Canada last,” Pallister said. “I just want a Canadian home field advantage for us.”

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said he has spoken to the president of Providence Therapeutics and contacted other premiers to establish an inter-provincial task force on vaccine supply.

Kenney said at a news conference that Providence told him the company would need a C$150 million order representing 50 million doses to be able to establish a domestic production facility in Canada.

The Canadian government has signed all procurement deals for vaccines so far – more per capita than any other country – but they are all made outside Canada and only Pfizer and Moderna have regulatory approval. The provinces are in charge of administering vaccines.

Last week, Canada signed its first deal to allow a foreign coronavirus vaccine, developed by Novavax Inc, to be manufactured domestically.

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