Canada shared new details Tuesday about plans to manufacture COVID-19 vaccines at home — and Saskatchewan is a key player.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the University of Saskatchewan’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization, VIDO-InterVac, could pump out a huge portion of homegrown vaccines.
“The good news we’ve just heard is that VIDO-InterVac now projects they will be able to produce up to 40 million doses annually,” Trudeau said at a new conference Tuesday morning.
“We need as much domestic capacity for vaccine production as possible.”
VIDO-InterVac director Dr. Volker Gerdts said 40 million doses a year is a best-case scenario for their production facility, which is not yet complete.
“It all depends on which vaccine we’re talking about,” Gerdts told Global News, noting some vaccines are more difficult to manufacture than others.
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Construction on VIDO-InterVac’s vaccine development facility should wrap by the end of October, Gerdts said. He hopes production can begin in 2022, after the facility gets regulatory approval.
The federal government invested $46 million in the manufacturing station, Trudeau said.
Staff will be able to manufacture all types of COVID-19 vaccines, except for the mRNA vaccine.
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“Those are actually being made almost in chemical plants rather than in traditional vaccine manufacturing facilities,” Gerdts said.
VIDO-InterVac’s own vaccine entered Phase 1 of clinical trials in Halifax late last week, he said.
“That’s what we were working so hard for,” Gerdts said. “While we’re obviously not the fastest in the world right now, … it’s very good for us to keep doing what we’re doing.”
The organization is recruiting volunteers, who will likely receive the vaccine or control early next week, he said.
“I would argue that our vaccine has maybe some advantages over some of the existing vaccines out there that I think, in the long term, we will see people will want to use,” he said.
VIDO-InterVac’s vaccine won’t have to be stored in ultra-low temperatures, so it will be easier to transport to remote communities.
He also said the vaccine will be affordable and could be more effective against new variants of the virus.