A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. A leading Canadian health expert on the government’s COVID-19 task force says the pandemic has to be viewed as a wake-up call for Canada to create its own domestic vaccine manufacturing capacity. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. A leading Canadian health expert on the government’s COVID-19 task force says the pandemic has to be viewed as a wake-up call for Canada to create its own domestic vaccine manufacturing capacity. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Ramp up Canadian vaccine manufacturing, says COVID-19 task force health adviser

Expert says variants, other pandemics mean that more vaccines will be needed

A leading Canadian health expert on the federal government’s COVID-19 Task Force says the pandemic should be viewed as a wake-up call for Canada to create its own domestic vaccine manufacturing capacity.

Dr. Alan Bernstein says that with new variants of the novel coronavirus emerging, Canadians might need multiple vaccines for several years.

“The government’s made hints of doing it. But I think the sooner we get on with it, the better,” Bernstein, who is also the head of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR), said in an interview Friday.

“We need domestic vaccine production capacity in the country for the next pandemic, and also for this pandemic. If there are variants arising, we may be designing second, third-generation vaccines and vaccinating the population for the next two or three years.”

On Friday, Moderna announced that production delays would cut into its upcoming deliveries of vaccine doses to Canada. That followed Pfizer and BioNTech having cancelled an entire shipment of its COVID-19 vaccine to Canada this week, after reducing its previous shipment by 20 per cent, due to a temporary slowdown while its production facility in Belgium is being upgraded.

Bernstein said “hiccups” are to be expected with vaccine shipments, but that shouldn’t prevent the government from pressuring pharmaceutical companies to ensure timely deliveries.

“It’s one thing to do a trial where you’re making enough vaccine to vaccinate 60,000 people. It’s a totally different matter when you’re scaling up to vaccinate not just 35 million Canadians, but about a billion people in western Europe and North America, never mind the rest of the world,” said Bernstein.

If Pfizer and Moderna make good on delivering their combined promise of six million doses by the end of March, that is going to put immense pressure on the federal government and the provinces to finish carrying out timely vaccinations of as many as three million people in the next eight weeks, said Bernstein.

“That’s a lot of people to vaccinate in a very short period of time. So the provinces have their work to do as well as Ottawa in holding those companies’ feet to the fire.”

Bernstein says the fact that Canadians are anxious about vaccine delays suggests that the much-feared “vaccine hesitancy” — a reluctance by people to be injected with new, unproven drugs — may not be as prevalent as health experts once feared.

READ MORE: Johnson & Johnson says COVID-19 vaccine 85% effective against severe illness

Bernstein also says that even though it is counterintuitive, Canadians and citizens of other developed countries must accept the fact that five to 10 per cent of their vaccine supplies should be going to less-developed countries,

Otherwise, he said, global trade and travel will suffer, and that will be to the detriment of rich countries too.

“We’re kidding ourselves if we think that by vaccinating every Canadian, we’re safe. We’re not, because there’ll be mutants arising and people move around, despite the ban on transportation that the prime minister announced,” said Bernstein, who is also the founding president of the Canadian Institutes of Health and Research and member of the scientific advisory committee of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

That means an otherwise healthy 20-year-old Canadian might also have to understand that it is not in their interest to be vaccinated before an older person in a poorer country, he suggested.

“We’re a trading nation. And so if we can’t trade our goods with other countries, and vice versa, because we don’t want people coming in, or even objects coming in from other countries, that 20 year old is going to suffer because he’s going to lose, or she will lose, their jobs.”

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirusvaccines

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Debra Lynn photo
Mysterious smoke cloud seen in Seavac Centre

Fire crews did a thorough sweep of the centre.

North Island Gazette file photo of Port McNeill council.
Heated conversation occurs at Port McNeill council over policy request

Port McNeill mayor Gaby Wickstrom wants to see a change in the… Continue reading

The Port Alice pulp mill has been dormant since 2015. (North Island Gazette file photo)
The Port Alice pulp mill site is being ‘recycled’

Bankruptcy company is overseeing de-risking the site, water treatment and environmental monitoring.

Port Hardy Senior Citizens’ Society president Rosaline Glynn holds up the certificate from B.C. Premier John Horgan next to Loaves & Fishes director Peter Sinclair, vice president Kris Huddlestan, and Port Hardy mayor Dennis Dugas. (Submitted photo)
Port Hardy council to nominate Glynn for the Order of British Columbia

Glynn’s nomination was endorsed unanimously by council.

Emergency personnel crews on scene assisting BCEHS with patient care. (Port Hardy Fire Rescue photo)
Speed and alcohol believed to be the cause of Saturday night car crash

More information on the crash could potentially be released at a later date.

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the B.C. legislature press theatre to give a daily update on the COVID-19 pandemic, April 6, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. nears 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, essential workers next

564 new cases, four deaths, no new outbreaks Thursday

The Netflix logo on an iPhone. B.C. delayed imposing sales tax on digital services and sweetened carbonated beverages as part of its response to COVID-19. Those taxes take effect April 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Matt Rourke
B.C. applies 7% sales tax on streaming, vaping, sweet drinks April 1

Measures from 2020 budget were delayed due to COVID-19

Chief Don Tom of the Tsartlip First Nation was outraged after Green MLA Adam Olsen revealed on social media that the community had been experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak – a fact the First Nation had chosen to keep private to avoid racist backlash as experienced by the Cowichan Tribes when an outbreak was declared there in January. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. First Nation ‘outraged’ after Green MLA reveals COVID-19 outbreak

Tsartlip First Nation chief shares concerns about racist backlash, MLA apologizes

A lawyer wears a face mask and gloves to curb the spread of COVID-19 while waiting to enter B.C. Supreme Court, in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, Aug. 28, 2020. British Columbia’s highest court has sided with the land owner in a dispute over public access to public land. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. high court finds in favour of large landowner in fight over access to pair of lakes

The Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club launched legal action after the cattle company blocked road and trail access

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa Friday, March 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau holds firm on premiers’ health-care funding demands, COVID-19 aid comes first

Premiers argue that the current amount doesn’t keep pace with yearly cost increases of about five per cent

Free Reformed Church is seen as people attend service, in Chilliwack, B.C., on Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021. Lawyers for the British Columbia government and the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms are back in B.C. Supreme Court today, squaring off over the legality of COVID-19 rules that prohibit in-person religious services. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. top doctor has power to restrict access to a place during health hazard: lawyer

Under B.C.’s Public Health Act, Jacqueline Hughes says, Henry can restrict or prevent entry to a place

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada has secured through a deal with the Serum Institute of India in partnership with Verity Pharma at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
B.C. dentists and bus drivers want newly-approved Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine

BC Dental Association says dentists and their teams cannot treat patients remotely

Surrey Pretrial in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. transgender inmate to get human rights hearing after being held in mostly male jail

B.C. Human Rights Tribunal member Amber Prince on March 3 dismissed the pretrial’s application to have Makayla Sandve’s complaint dismissed

President of the BC Teacher’s Federation (BCTF) Teri Mooring is calling for teachers to be vaccinated for COVID-19 by summer. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Why it’s ‘urgent’ B.C. teachers get vaccinated from COVID-19 before summer

President Teri Mooring says not enough is being done to prevent virus transmission in schools

Most Read