Manitoba buys COVID-19 vaccine candidate, first Canadian province to bypass Ottawa

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

FILE PHOTO: A woman holds a small bottle labelled with a “Coronavirus COVID-19 Vaccine” sticker and a medical syringe in this illustration taken October 30, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

Premier Brian Pallister said his government had agreed to buy the doses from Alberta-based Providence Therapeutics, which is developing a candidate similar to those produced by Pfizer Inc and Moderna Inc.

If approved by the regulator, Health Canada, Providence would supply Manitoba with its first 200,000 doses next year.

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 is only now developing its own capacity to produce them.

Canada’s rate of vaccination lags far behind rates per capita in the United States, United Kingdom and many other nations, but the number of new infections in Canada 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.”

Pallister did release financial terms.

The Canadian government has signed all procurement deals for vaccines so far – more per capita than any other country in the world – but they are all made outside the country 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.

Health Canada officials could not be immediately reached.

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