Senator urges Ottawa to support Canadian vaccine company awaiting funding

Senator urges Ottawa to support Canadian vaccine company awaiting funding

Senator urges Ottawa to support Canadian vaccine company awaiting funding

OTTAWA — An Alberta senator is urging Ottawa to fund a Canadian company so it can develop a domestic COVID-19 vaccine to lessen the risk Canadians will have wait in a line on a foreign-made pandemic cure.

“I really do believe that we need to keep the pressure now on the government of Canada, whom I’m not criticizing. I get that this is an unusual time. And this may be in hand, or it may have fallen through the cracks. But we can’t allow that to happen,” Sen. Doug Black said in an interview Monday.

“I’m not criticizing anybody. But I will be criticizing people if they don’t see this an opportunity to potentially protect Canadians.”

Black was adding his voice to those of numerous health professionals who are questioning why the Trudeau government has yet to make a decision on the $35-million proposal to fund Providence Therapeutics.

Providence has told the government it could deliver five million doses of its new mRNA vaccine by mid-2021 for use in Canada if it were able to successfully complete human testing.

Providence’s chief executive Brad Sorenson told The Canadian Press he has not heard back from the government since late May after his company submitted its proposal in April, and after the government reached out to it as a possible vaccine-maker.

The mRNA technology is new and untested, but Black and others say it has potential.

They point to the billions of dollars that two other companies have received from the U.S. government to pursue research using the same new approach that involves using a key fragment of genetic material instead of working with an inactive sample of live virus.

The American firm Moderna began a 30,000-person human trial on Monday after receiving hundreds of millions of dollars from the U.S. government.

Last week, the U.S. committed to pay Germany’s BioNTech and its American partner Pfizer $1.95 billion to produce 100 million doses if their vaccine candidate proves safe and effective in humans.

“I see the commitment that’s being made by the European and American governments to this identical technology and I’m saying, ‘Hmm, why in the name of goodness aren’t we pursuing this aggressively in Canada?’” said Black.

“No stone should be left unturned in pursuit of a made-in-Canada COVID solution.”

Health-care professionals have also written to Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains to urge him to make up his mind.

Bains spokesman John Power has said he couldn’t comment on specific proposals, but said the evaluation process is ongoing.

Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam told a press conference on Friday that the mRNA technology is a newer, experimental technology “but completely worthy of being part of the actual analysis which is being undertaken and will be considered as part of the investment portfolio.”

The federal government has created a $600-million fund to support vaccine clinical trials and manufacturing inside Canada.

Black along with several health experts point to the hold-up in one project that Canada has already funded: the partnership between China’s CanSino Biologics and Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia.

The program has been sidetracked because China has held up shipments of the vaccine that it was supposed to send to Dalhousie researchers by the end of May to start human trials.

Canada-China relations are severely strained after the People’s Republic imprisoned two Canadian men, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, in apparent retaliation for the RCMP’s arresting Chinese high-tech executive Meng Wanzhou on an American extradition warrant in December 2018.

Black said he became aware of Providence’s research earlier this winter. He said he followed up with the company last week, and was stunned to learn the project appeared stalled.

Now that the issue has received publicity, Black said he believes the government will respond quickly.

“My guess is that the government will see its way clear to supporting these trials. I don’t see why they wouldn’t, right?” he said.

“Job No. 1 of a government is to protect its citizens. This falls very much into the basket of protecting your citizens.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 27, 2020.

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

Coronavirus

Just Posted

Flora Northwest was taken to the Ermineskin residential school when she was six years old. (Emily Jaycox/Ponoka News)
Ermineskin residential school survivor: ‘It just brings me back to the cries at night’

Discovery in Kamloops of remains of 215 children a painful time for survivors

The Government of Alberta identified 115 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, bringing the provincial total to 3,089.
(Black Press file photo)
Red Deer drops to 71 active cases of COVID-19

Province adds 127 new cases of the virus

Police officers and their dogs undergo training at the RCMP Police Dog Services training centre in Innisfail, Alta., on Wednesday, July 15, 2015. Mounties say they are searching for an armed and dangerous man near a provincial park in northern Alberta who is believed to have shot and killed a service dog during a police chase. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
RCMP search for armed man in northern Alberta after police dog shot and killed

Cpl. Deanna Fontaine says a police service dog named Jago was shot during the pursuit

Alberta now has 2,336 active cases of COVID-19, with 237 people in hospital, including 58 in intensive care. (Black Press file photo)
Red Deer down to 73 active cases of COVID-19, lowest since early November

The Central zone has 253 active cases of the virus

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

Bruce Springsteen performs at the 13th annual Stand Up For Heroes benefit concert in support of the Bob Woodruff Foundation in New York on Nov. 4, 2019. (Greg Allen/Invision/AP)
Canadians who got AstraZeneca shot can now see ‘Springsteen on Broadway’

B.C. mayor David Screech who received his second AstraZeneca dose last week can now attend the show

A lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018.THE CANADIAN PRESS
No winning ticket sold for Friday’s $70 million Lotto Max jackpot

The huge jackpot has remained unclaimed for several weeks now

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a joint news conference following the EU-Canada Summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday June 15, 2021. Trudeau says Canada is on track now to have 68 million doses delivered by the end of July, which is more than enough to fully vaccinate all 33.2 million Canadians over the age of 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine deliveries enough to fully vaccinate all eligible Canadians by end of July

Three in four eligible Canadians now have their first dose, nearly one in five fully vaccinated.

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases attributed to the highly contagious Delta variant grew in Canada this week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s public health agency reports spike in confirmed cases of Delta variant

More than 2,000 cases of the variant confirmed across all 10 provinces and in one territory

The federal government says it wants to ban most flavoured vaping products in a bid to reduce their appeal to youth. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Craig Mitchelldyer
Health Canada proposes ban on most vaping flavours it says appeal to youth

If implemented, the regulations would restrict all e-cigarette flavours except tobacco, mint and menthol

The Montreal Police logo is seen in Montreal on Wednesday, July 8, 2020. Some Quebec politicians are calling for an investigation after a video was released that appears to show a Montreal police officer with his leg on a young Black man’s neck during an arrest. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Probe called for after video appearing to show Montreal officer’s knee on Black youth’s neck

Politicians call for investigation after clip evokes memories of George Floyd incident

Most Read