The agreement secures Canada’s access to 40 million doses of the mRNA vaccine, with the option to purchase an additional 65 million shots.
“We’ve reached an agreement with Moderna for additional supply of its COVID-19 vaccine for 2022 and 2023, with an option to extend into 2024,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted Saturday.
The announcement comes several days after the Massachusetts-based drug maker confirmed it had signed a memorandum of understanding with the federal government to build an mRNA vaccine manufacturing plant in Canada.
Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel said Tuesday that the agreement will give Canada access to Moderna’s mRNA “development engine” and allow the country priority access to the doses. He said Canada can also ask Moderna to shift its production lines to respond to a new or emerging threat.
“Whether it’s a small outbreak, or a big pandemic, like the one we just saw — God forbid — Canada will be ready,” Bancel told reporters.
“We’ll be ready on Canadian soil to make, in a matter of months, a new vaccine for a new emerging virus to protect the Canadian population.”
The announcement was also made in the face of the possibility of a third booster shot in order to better protect them from more vaccine-resistant variants of the virus.
Pfizer and BioNtech have released statements renewing calls for third doses, touting them as the best response to concerns over waning immune protection in the face of the highly contagious Delta variant, as worse strains may emerge. Amid fears that worse strains may emerge, earlier this month, Moderna said a third dose might be needed by winter.
New studies have emerged suggesting a third shot as the best way to amplify immune response, especially among transplant patients and others whose weakened immune systems prevent them from developing adequate anti-body levels after two doses.
One study from the New England Journal of Medicine looked at levels of different types of antibodies as well as T-cell responses in 120 transplant patients in Ontario and found increases in the majority of those who received a third vaccine dose.
But some experts are calling for a pause, saying more data is needed before any decisions can be made.
“The evidence is still evolving on that front,” Dr. Theresa Tam, chief public health officer of Canada, told reporters earlier this month, adding that experts are monitoring high-risk populations, like the immunocompromised and elderly, for a potential booster dose.
The World Health Organization has also called for a moratorium on COVID-19 vaccine boosters until at least the end of September in order to give all countries time to vaccinate at least 10 per cent of their populations.
“I understand the concern of all governments to protect their people from the Delta variant. But we cannot accept countries that have already used most of the global supply of vaccines using even more of it,” WHO director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Aug. 4.
“We need an urgent reversal from the majority of vaccines going to high-income countries to the majority going to low-income countries.”
More to come.
— with files from Reuters, the Canadian Press and Global News’ Aaron D’Andrea