B.C. is interested in following Manitoba’s lead and purchasing its own supply of vaccines from private Canadian companies to make up for a shortfall from the federal government, says Premier John Horgan.
Horgan said Thursday that Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister has taken the “first step” that other premiers will follow in cutting deals with private companies to bolster the provincial supply of vaccines in addition to whatever is coming from Ottawa.
“Today, there is no vaccine to buy in Canada,” said Horgan. “If it becomes available, we will be at the front of the line with others trying to get as much as we can to meet the needs of BCers.”
Manitoba inked a deal with Alberta-based pharmaceutical company Providence Therapeutics for the first 200,000 doses of a new Canadian-made vaccine that has yet to be approved by Health Canada. It will cost Manitoba $18 per dose, for a total of $36 million, paid in instalments as the vaccine is approved and manufactured.
Manitoba cited delays from Pfizer and Moderna, which have failed to deliver promised early doses of the vaccine to the federal government but insist their contractually-obligated amounts in March and April are still on track.
“Certainly, everything is on the table,” Horgan said of a B.C. deal with Providence.
“Adrian Dix, the Minister of Health, will be meeting with Providence to talk about what they can offer us, not in the short-term, but in the long-term. And this has been a topic of conversation between premiers and with the federal government for the past number of weeks.”
Canada does not have any domestic manufacturers of vaccines, after a deal last year with a Chinese-based company was blocked by the Chinese government. It has instead focused on purchasing supply from foreign manufacturers.
“I think the pandemic has opened our eyes to the importance of domestic supply chains and, of course, the vaccines are top of mind today,” said Horgan.
“But I want to reassure people that the federal government has made commitments to 6 million vaccinations being available by the end of this quarter, which is the end of next month, and we’re holding them to that. And I expect that that will happen.”
Horgan said the issue of supply is particularly important for the province as it restarts its vaccination plans, which were announced last month and then paused due to delays from Ottawa.
He said a stable supply is necessary once mass vaccinations begin, due to logistics and timelines for second doses.
“Now, the challenge, of course, is that if we’re advised that we’re going to receive vaccines on a Wednesday and we start booking appointments for elderly, in this case, in their 80s, for Thursday, and the supply doesn’t show up, that disrupts our vaccination plan and we’re concerned about that,” he said.
“Not overly concerned at this point, but if this continues for a few more weeks then we’ll be in a critical situation and we’ll have more to say at that time, should that occur.”
B.C.’s vaccination plan calls for seniors in long-term care homes, health care staff, remote First Nations communities and vulnerable unhoused residents first, moving to seniors aged above 80 this month. That second wave of seniors won’t occur until March.
Mass vaccinations for the rest of the population are set to begin in April, grouped by people’s age in five-year cohorts. Most people aged 25 to 60 won’t see vaccines until July to September.