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

Community Foundation North Okanagan is now accepting applications for its annual Smart and Caring Community Grants program. (CFNO photo)
Cash available for North Okanagan non-profits

Community Foundation North Okanagan seeks applicants for its annual Smart and Caring Grants program

The current B.C. Men’s curling champions, Rick Sawatsky (Vernon and now living and working in Kelowna, from left), Andrew Nerpin (Kelowna), Jim Cotter (Vernon) and Steve Laycock (Saskatoon), have yet to find the win column at the 2021 Tim Hortons Brier in Calgary. (Black Press - file photo)
B.C. looking for Brier victory

Team B.C. falls to 0-2 Sunday, March 7, with 10-7 loss to Wild Card 1 entry from Manitoba

Forty-seven vaccination clinics will open across Interior Health beginning March 15. (Canadian Press)
48 COVID-19 vaccine clinics to open across Interior Health

Select groups can book appointments starting Monday

Forty-seven vaccination clinics will open across Interior Health beginning March 15. (Canadian Press)
48 COVID-19 vaccine clinics to open across Interior Health

Select groups can book appointments starting Monday

Coldstream’s Kalamalka Secondary has teamed up with Globox on a fundraising raffle for its graduating class of 2021. (Photo supplied)
Coldstream secondary school grads glowing over fundraiser

Globox giving away five gift boxes worth about $6,000 in raffle, proceeds to Kal’s Class of ‘21

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
‘It’s been a good week’: Tam hopeful on vaccines as pandemic anniversary nears

Tam says the addition of two new vaccines will help Canadians get immunized faster

Const. Allan Young. Photo: Abbotsford Police Department
Manslaughter charge laid in Nelson death of Abbotsford police officer

Allan Young died after an incident in downtown Nelson last summer

Kelowna General Hospital (File photo)
One of two Kelowna General Hospital COVID-19 outbreaks declared over

One outbreak declared over after two deaths, seven cases; another outbreak remains ongoing in the hospital

Cottonwoods Care Home in Kelowna. (Google Maps)
COVID-19 outbreak declared at Kelowna care home after 12 cases noted

Two staff members and 10 residents at Cottonwoods Care Centre have tested positive for COVID-19

There is no true picture of how many youth in Penticton are experiencing housing instability or true homelessness. The Foundry and the city of Penticton are trying to find that out.
How many youth are experiencing homelessness in Penticton?

Foundry Penticton and the City have partnered on a youth survey open until March 13

Chelsea Ishizuka was borned and raised in Penticton but has now moved to Japan. When she found out there was a popular restaurant there named after Penticton, she had to go check it out. Here she is with the owner (right). (Facebook)
Popular restaurant in Japan named after city of Penticton

A Pentictonite now living in Tokyo discovered the eatery and the history behind its name

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

Pictures and notes in from friends and classmates make up a memorial in support and memory of Aubrey Berry, 4, and her sister Chloe, 6, during a vigil held at Willows Beach in Oak Bay, B.C., on December 30, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Mother of slain daughters supports recent changes to Canada’s Divorce Act

Sarah Cotton-Elliott said she believed her children took a back seat to arranging equal parenting

Most Read