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Canada finalizes Novavax deal to buy up to 72 million more COVID-19 vaccine doses

Click to play video: 'Ottawa signs 2 new COVID-19 vaccine deals for Canada' Ottawa signs 2 new COVID-19 vaccine deals for Canada
WATCH: Ottawa signs 2 new COVID-19 vaccine deals for Canada – Aug 31, 2020

In a statement Friday, Novavax Inc. confirmed that Canada has finalized the previous deal to buy 52 million doses of their COVID-19 vaccine, with an option to purchase another 24 million.

The purchase from Novavax was one of two deals initially inked by Canada in the summer of last year, the other being an potential agreement to buy 38 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson candidate.

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Coronavirus: Government focus is on Canadians’ access to potential COVID-19 vaccine, Trudeau says – Aug 31, 2020

“We thank the Government of Canada for their confidence in our program and ongoing partnership in the regulatory review and delivery of a safe, effective COVID-19 vaccine for the citizens of Canada,” said John J. Trizzino, Chief Commercial and Chief Business Officer of Novavax in a statement.

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“Novavax is proud to play our part in working tirelessly together with governments, scientists, regulators and others in the global effort to put an end to the pandemic.”

The country has now inked a total of seven deals with vaccine manufacturers since the start of the pandemic, with agreements with Pfizer Canada, Moderna, Johnston and Johnston and Novavax announced in the summer, and then with Sanofi/GSK, AstraZeneca and Medicago reported in the fall.

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.

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: Trudeau announces 2 new deals for possible COVID-19 vaccines' Coronavirus: Trudeau announces 2 new deals for possible COVID-19 vaccines
Coronavirus: Trudeau announces 2 new deals for possible COVID-19 vaccines – Aug 31, 2020

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

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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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Coronavirus: Canada inks deals with Pfizer, Moderna for coronavirus vaccine candidates – Aug 5, 2020

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 – Aug 31, 2020

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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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.

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: Trudeau announces over $126 million funding to NRC biomanufacturing facility for vaccine production' Coronavirus: Trudeau announces over $126 million funding to NRC biomanufacturing facility for vaccine production
Coronavirus: Trudeau announces over $126 million funding to NRC biomanufacturing facility for vaccine production – Aug 31, 2020

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

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