Canada’s procurement minister says she is negotiating new vaccine contracts to nail down supplies of vaccine booster shots if they’re needed next year.
“We are actively planning for 2022,” Anita Anand said in a recent interview with The Canadian Press.
She said Canada’s priority remains to get doses now, and while the country remains well behind the United States, United Kingdom and several other countries, its vaccination pace has picked up significantly in the last month.
Canada expects to get every adult vaccinated fully — with both doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna or Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines or one shot of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson — by the end of September at the latest.
Teenagers likely will be vaccinated by then as well, but vaccines for kids under 12 aren’t expected to be authorized until at least the fall.
However, many experts believe that additional booster shots are needed, either to strengthen the immune system or to fight some of the new variants of the virus that cause COVID-19.
Most of Canada’s current vaccine suppliers are already testing new versions against variants, including Pfizer and Moderna.
Health Canada has initiated a plan to authorize boosters without the same extensive testing required to approve the original vaccines, similar to how flu shots are authorized each year after being adjusted for the new strain of flu virus believed to be dominant.
Canada has already purchased 117.6 million doses of the four vaccines authorized, which could fully vaccinate all Canadians once, and about half the population twice.
Canada will have another 124 million doses if Health Canada approves the vaccine from Novavax, Medicago or Sanofi-GlaxoSmithKline. There is also the option to get an additional 180 million doses, although some contracts for those options have expired.
Minister Anand said purchasing reinforcement injections is not as simple as renewing existing contracts.
“In some cases, we are amending contracts, in other cases, we are negotiating additional contracts,” she said. “So, it is very intense at the current time in terms of planning for the 2022 buy. But the key is to make sure we have the flexibility in place in our contracts to ensure that we can have the doses needed for 2022 and beyond.”
The minister said Canada could also seek vaccines from other pharmaceutical companies if recommended by the national vaccine task force.
Most of those negotiations will still require Canada to import the vaccine. Medicago plans vaccine production in Canada, and Novavax will be able to produce up to two million doses per month at a National Research Council facility in Montreal, starting later this year or early 2022.
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