Frederic Lacroix-Couture, Canadian Press
Ottawa wants to be prepared for future seasonal and pandemic flu. The federal government has signed a new agreement with the British multinational GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), based in Quebec, for the local delivery and production of vaccine doses for the next four years.
Canada will have the option to buy up to 80 million doses of the pandemic flu vaccine under the contract that went into effect earlier this month. It also provides for the supply of at least 4 million doses of seasonal influenza vaccine annually.
The deal was unveiled Friday at GSK Canada in Quebec, in the Sainte-Foy sector, where 900 people work.
Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos argued that by doing business with the only self-sufficient Canadian provider of pandemic flu vaccines in the country, Canada protects itself against several obstacles.
“By using domestic production right here in Canada, we can ensure that Canada’s supply is not compromised by border closures, trade disruptions, transportation issues or shipping delays,” he argued at a news conference.
The first doses against seasonal flu are scheduled for October, under this contract that could be extended for up to five additional one-year periods.
For reasons of confidentiality, the amount awarded by Ottawa to GSK Canada is not publicly disclosed.
Even without the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government would have signed a new agreement with GSK, Minister Duclos mentioned.
Seasonal flu has been here for a long time and pandemic flus occur every 10 to 40 years, he argued.
“With climate change, more frequent contact, deforestation, urbanization, faster and more frequent movements between countries, this type of virus evolves faster and therefore also affects people faster. So, it should have been done,” the liberal-elect said.
Relations between the pharmaceutical company and the federal government go back to 2001, in particular with an agreement for the supply of vaccines against seasonal and pandemic influenza.
Delay in booster doses
Mr. Duclos used the announcement to highlight the importance of obtaining a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at a time when transmission of the virus continues to grow in several regions with the highly transferable BA.5 variant.
Quebec and Canada have experienced high vaccination rates for the first and second doses, but are “behind” compared to other G7 countries, except the United States, in terms of vaccination for the third dose, he said.
Up-to-date vaccination reduces the risk of infections, transmission and development of severe forms of COVID-19, and protects against hospitalization and long-term COVID, Mr. Duclos listed.
The minister also welcomed Health Canada’s approval of the Moderna vaccine for children aged six months to five years, encouraging parents to vaccinate their young children.
To those who have concerns about vaccinating their youth, Duclos responds that the test results are “very strong” and the expert opinion “very clear”; It is a “very safe” and “effective” product, especially in reducing the risk of serious illness, explained the minister.
Thursday’s approval extends eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine to nearly two million children in Canada.
This dispatch was produced with the financial assistance of Meta Exchanges and The Canadian Press for the story.