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Canada secures 2 new deals for possible COVID-19 vaccines

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WATCH: Ottawa signs 2 new COVID-19 vaccine deals for Canada

Canada has inked two additional deals with companies working on a possible vaccine for COVID-19.

The two agreements include 76 million doses of Novavax Inc.’s vaccine candidate and 38 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s candidate.

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Coronavirus: Government focus is on Canadians’ access to potential COVID-19 vaccine, Trudeau says

They bring Canada’s total number of procurement agreements with vaccine developers to four, as deals with Pfizer Canada and Moderna were announced earlier this month.

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Read more: Canadians could join clinical trials for new COVID-19 vaccine, says researcher

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged Monday that there is “a lot more work to go” on the development of any of these vaccines, but said the “broad range of vaccine developers” Canada has signed on with will be beneficial in the long run.

“It’s possible there will be a breakthrough soon, but we don’t know where or when that breakthrough will be,” he said.

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Coronavirus: Trudeau announces 2 new deals for possible COVID-19 vaccines

“Taken together, our vaccine agreements will give Canada at least 88 million doses with options to obtain tens of millions more.”

Some vaccines may require more than one dose to be effective. Any potential vaccine will be required to pass Health Canada regulatory approval before being distributed.

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Click to play video 'Coronavirus: Canada inks deals with Pfizer, Moderna for coronavirus vaccine candidates' Coronavirus: Canada inks deals with Pfizer, Moderna for coronavirus vaccine candidates
Coronavirus: Canada inks deals with Pfizer, Moderna for coronavirus vaccine candidates

Novavax — a biotechnology company that develops vaccines for serious infectious diseases — said it expects to finalize the advance purchase agreement “as early as the second quarter of 2021.”

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Novavax’s vaccine (NVX-CoV2373) is currently in its second phase of clinical trials. The company plans to begin the third phase in September.

Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is currently in phase one and two of its trials in the U.S. and Belgium. In a statement, the company said plans for phase three of the program are already underway, which will include trials on 60,000 volunteers.

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Government of Canada makes vaccine deals with 2 more companies

Clinical trials by Pfizer Canada, which is working with BioNTech in Germany, and U.S.-based Moderna, have both already advanced to the third stage.

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Canada has requested 20 million and 56 million doses of those candidates, respectively.

Read more: Canada’s top doctor ‘optimistic’ after Canada-China vaccine partnership collapses

Monday’s announcement is the first glimpse of how many vaccine doses the federal government is working to secure as the coronavirus pandemic continues in Canada. Previously, officials did not elaborate on the number of doses it was requesting from companies, merely saying “millions.”

The cost of the agreements is not yet clear.

Novavax’s vaccine has shown promise in recent weeks. Initial data from an early-stage trial this month exhibited an ability to produce antibodies against COVID-19.

The company recently began enrolling volunteers for its second phase candidate, with data from that part of the clinical trial expected in the fourth quarter of 2020.

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Should the COVID-19 vaccine be patent-free?

Globally, the Novavax vaccine is one of nearly 30 being tested in human clinical trials. However, it lags behind candidates from Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca, which are in later stages at this time.

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The United States and Britain are also in deals with Novavax. The U.S. awarded the company $1.6 billion in July to test and manufacture its vaccine in the country, with the hopes of securing 100 million doses by January. Britain has requested to buy 60 million doses.

Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine uses “viral vectors” to generate immune responses. A similar approach is being taken by AstraZeneca, as well as China’s CanSino, which was once being developed in partnership with Canada but has since been abandoned.

Read more: Safety of COVID-19 vaccine concerning some Canadians, StatCan survey shows

The government also announced on Monday that it would provide $126 million in funding to expand a biomanufacturing facility at the Human Health Therapeutics Research Centre in Montreal.

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Coronavirus: Trudeau announces over $126 million funding to NRC biomanufacturing facility for vaccine production

Trudeau said the aid would bolster the facility’s ability to manufacture vaccines and strengthen partnerships with developers. It is expected to be up-and-running by mid-2021, Trudeau said, and intends to produce up to two million doses of vaccine a month by the end of next summer.

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Anita Anand, the minister of public services and procurement, in a statement called the in-principle agreement “an important step” in the government’s efforts to secure a vaccine as the pandemic continues and “evolves.”

As of Aug. 30, the coronavirus pandemic has claimed 9,117 lives in Canada overall, and 127,870 cases have been diagnosed, according to figures released by provincial and territorial governments.

The vast majority of people diagnosed — about 89 per cent — have recovered from the viral illness.

More than 6.3 million tests have been conducted since late January.

— with files from Reuters, the Canadian Press and Global News’ Kerri Breen