Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister said the federal government’s contracts with key coronavirus vaccine suppliers like Pfizer and Moderna forbid those companies from selling in separate deals to provinces.
In an interview with The West Block‘s Mercedes Stephenson, Pallister said recent comments by Procurement Minister Anita Anand that provinces are free to pursue their own deals with coronavirus vaccine suppliers are “false.”
“My response is that the minister is totally wrong and we can certainly provide you with ample evidence of our work in reaching out to the various companies the federal government had signed up with,” said Pallister, pointing to Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson.
“They’ve all told us that they are not going to sell to us because that’s part of the deal they made with the federal government. To me, that’s blocking.”
Anand faced questions last month after Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said the province would attempt to secure its own deals with key vaccine suppliers after the shipments to the provinces became irregular.
She said in a press conference that provinces are free to do so and that “we, as a federal government, are in no way inhibiting or blocking them from doing so.”
Pallister said he understands that the federal government may have wanted to be the sole procurement body for vaccines, and that they can make an argument for doing so.
But he said suggesting that the provinces are free to go make their own deals is misleading.
“We have tried Pfizer, we’ve tried Moderna, I could go down the list. AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and so on and so forth — they are not allowed by their deal with the federal government to sell to the provinces,” he said.
“Apart from Minister Anand’s false statement, we certainly support the federal government’s efforts. We are all cheering for the federal government to get these vaccines here.“
Pallister said fluctuating vaccine shipments and a ramp-up in nationalistic attitudes by countries with domestic vaccine manufacturers is the main reason why he is now pursuing a deal with a Canadian company to supply vaccines to the province of Manitoba.
Read more: What you need to know about mRNA vaccines
He said the goal is for provinces to be able to secure their own “insurance” policies for a longer-term supply of vaccines in case the federal government’s deals with foreign manufacturers hit further bumps.
“It’s a sign that I’m learning, as we all are, sadly, the dangers of depending on other countries — who care about their people, of course, first — supplying Canadians with our needs,” he said.
“We’ve gone to a Canadian company that the federal government is not contracted with to supply us with vaccines and they’ll act as insurance.”
Pallister committed last week to buying two million doses of the made-in-Canada mRNA coronavirus vaccine in development by Calgary-based Providence Therapeutics.
The firm is the first with a Canadian coronavirus vaccine to reach human clinical trials.
It said in a press release late last month it expects to begin delivering vaccines — if approved by Health Canada — in late 2021 or early 2022.