Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister announced Thursday that the province has committed to purchasing two million doses of a made-in-Canada COVID-19 vaccine, but the fact that the vaccine in question is still in the early stages of a clinical trial has raised a few eyebrows.
Winnipeg epidemiologist Cynthia Carr of EPI Research told 680 CJOB it should be noted that the Alberta-based company, Providence Therapeutics, still has a ways to go before its vaccine gets approved by Health Canada.
“They are so early in the process,” Carr said.
“They have a Phase 1 human trial with 60 people. They don’t have approval yet to proceed with Phase 2, which would start in May. After that trial is completed, they would have to go through the federal process of review and approval,” she continued.
“Then they have to manufacture and distribute those vaccines. With this company, do they have the capacity to do that? We see these huge Fortune 500 companies having challenges in capacities.”
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is another premier that has floated the idea of securing their own vaccine supply.
“What they have in common is that they are not terribly popular when it comes to their handling of COVID,” University of Calgary public policy professor Lisa Young told Global News of the two premiers.
“If we look at the approval ratings for how well the provinces handled COVID, Manitoba and Alberta are at the bottom of the barrel.”
“Because of this, the premier really does need a win,” she added. “I think the premier wants to be a hero in the face of the COVID crisis, and it’s pretty clear that getting vaccines into arms is going to be the best way to be seen to be effective in this stage of managing the pandemic.”
The CEO of Providence Therapeutics said if everything goes according to plan, his company’s vaccine could be approved for emergency use by Health Canada by this fall.
In a release on Jan. 26, Providence said the vaccine, dubbed PTX-COVID19-B, is a messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine, and is the first fully made-in-Canada vaccine to reach the human clinical trial stage.
Pallister wouldn’t say exactly how much the province has agreed to pay, but did say the agreement will see Manitoba putting 20 per cent down, with another 40 per cent coming on approval by Health Canada and the final 40 per cent coming on delivery.
“We’ll release the details of the contract when it’s finalized,” he said.
“Manitobans are Canadians first. We are investing not just for ourselves, but for all Canadians,” he said. “Building a secure, made-in-Canada vaccine supply will put Canadians at the head of the line to get a COVID vaccine, where we belong.”
— With files from Marney Blunt