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

Alexander Ericksons award-winning piece, The Provider, on display at the Kitimat Museum and Archives (Photo Frieda Design School)
Kitimat Museum and Archives host Freda Diesing school art exhibition

Local Kitimat art exhibition from students of the Freda Diesing School of Northwest Coast Art

Security has been stepped up at both Kitimat General Hospital in Kitimat, pictured here, and at the Mills Memorial Hospital in Terrace. (File photo)
Stillbirth reaction leads to more hospital security

Staff, physicians facing threats and harassment

Workers at Kitimat General Hospital were presented with a large variety of food packages in appreciation of the last year of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. The donations came via local Epicurean representative Kerri Weightman who collected money for the purchases. (Jacob Lubberts photo)
Hospital workers receive food donation

Workers at Kitimat General Hospital were presented with a large variety of… Continue reading

(Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Murder charge laid in February 2020 stabbing death of Smithers man

Michael Egenolf is charged with the second-degree murder of Brodie Cumiskey

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: B.C. seniors aged 90+ can start to sign up for vaccination on March 8

Long-term care residents protected by shots already given

The James C Richardson Pipe Band marches in a Remembrance Day parade on Nov. 11, 2019 in Chilliwack. Wednesday, March 10 is International Bagpipe Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of March 7 to 13

International Bagpipe Day, Wash Your Nose Day and Kidney Day are all coming up this week

Victoria man Brett Andersen is asking for people’s help to secure him one of eight free tickets to the moon. (Screenshot/@brettandersen Instagram)
Victoria man wants your help securing a free ticket to the moon

Japanese billionaire offering eight people a trip to the moon

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

Donald Alan Sweet was once an all star CFL kicker who played for the Montreal Alouettes and Montreal Concordes over a 13-year career. Photo courtesy of Mission RCMP.
Ex-B.C. teacher who was CFL kicker charged with assault, sexual crimes against former students

Donald Sweet taught in Mission School District for 10 years, investigators seek further witnesses

During a press event on March 6, Const. Alex Berube, media relations officer for the West Shore RCMP, addressed a deadly shooting that occurred in Metchosin the night before. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
VIDEO: One man shot dead on Vancouver Island in ‘targeted incident’

Highway 14 reopens following multi-hour closure for investigation

Personal protective equipment is seen in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at St. Paul’s hospital in downtown Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
$16.9 million invested to improve worker safety, strengthen B.C.’s food supply chain

Money to be used for social distancing, personal protective equipment, cleaning, and air circulation

More than ever before, as pandemic conditions persist, the threat of data breaches and cyberattacks continues to grow, according to SFU professor Michael Parent. (Pixabay photo)
SFU expert unveils 5 ways the COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed cybersecurity

Recognizing these changes is the first in a series of steps to mitigate them once the pandemic ends, and before the next: Michael Parent

Most Read