(file photo)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Tuesday that the federal government has signed a deal with Novavax to produce COVID-19 vaccine in Canada.

The U.S. based pharmaceutical company plans to produce its protein-based vaccine at the National Research Council (NRC)’s Biologics Manufacturing Centre in Montreal, pending approval from Health Canada for the facility and the vaccine itself.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, our top priority has been the health and safety of all Canadians,” Trudeau said.

“Today, we are investing in our biomanufacturing capacity so that we have the made-in-Canada vaccines and treatments we need to protect Canadians, now and in the future, and recover from the impacts of COVID-19.”

Phase 3 clinical trials are currently underway to evaluate the safety and efficacy of the Novavax vaccine. A trial in the United Kingdom demonstrated 89.3 per cent overall efficacy for the two-dose vaccine.

Canada has previously signed a deal with Novavax to order up to 76 million doses of the Maryland-based company’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate.

Minister of Innovation François-Philippe Champagne, also says that construction is on schedule at the University of Saskatchewan to complete a vaccine manufacturing facility operated by the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO).

“They project to be able to make up to 40 million doses of vaccine annually,” said Champagne on Tuesday.

“I can’t overstate how quickly these two facilities (VIDO and the NRC at Royalmount), are being completed.”

Novavax said in a statement that the memorandum of understanding also includes a broader intention for the federal government to work with the company on increasing Novavax’s Canadian presence.

This includes the potential for further partnership opportunities that expand vaccine production in Canada, including partnerships with Canadian contract manufacturers.

“The Canadian government has been diligent in partnering with Novavax to ensure broad access of our COVID-19 vaccine candidate to the citizens of Canada,” said Stanley C. Erck, President and Chief Executive Officer of Novavax.

“Establishing a manufacturing foothold in Canada will be an important step forward in our quest to deliver an urgently needed safe and effective vaccine.”

The federal government also says they are investing a further $29 million in Precision Nanosystems Inc. (PNI) to establish a biomanufacturing facility in Vancouver for further vaccine production.

This facility is expected to be completed in 2023, with the capacity to manufacture up to 240 million doses of MRNA vaccines each year.

“Vaccines work,” said Prime Minister Trudeau on Tuesday.

“They are safe and effective. When it’s my turn, I’ll be ready to roll up my sleeve and get my doses. These vaccines save lives, so I hope you’ll join me.”

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