Government, Sanofi officials unveil $925M in vaccine funding in Toronto
Sanofi, which has a North York facility, will bolster its vaccine manufacturing work in the city
Representatives from all three levels of government announced joint funding to expand Canada's vaccine manufacturing capacity in Toronto on Wednesday morning.
The federal government will spend $415 million on the partnership with Sanofi Pasteur Ltd. Ontario's government will contribute $55 million to the project.
For its part, Sanofi will spend more than $455 million as well as create and maintain 1,225 highly-skilled jobs in Canada. The company will also invest at least $79 million a year to fund Canadian research and development.
Canada's ability to manufacture its own vaccines and personal protective equipment has been a hot-button issue throughout the pandemic.
Ford, who has been critical of former U.S. president Donald Trump's bid to block shipments of personal protective gear to Canada last year, lauded the announcement on Wednesday.
"We are now never going to have to rely on any country, any leader, we will be self-sufficient," he said.
The Toronto Star was first to report the multi-million dollar deal with the French pharmaceutical company, which already has a facility in the city where it produces influenza vaccines.
"Today is an actual, tangible demonstration that we've all learned lessons from the pandemic and are doing something about it," Toronto Mayor John Tory said.
The new money will build an "end-to-end influenza vaccine manufacturing facility," said a federal release, and is expected to create some 300 high-quality jobs in Toronto.
The new facility is expected to be up and running in 2027, and will have the capacity to produce "enough vaccine doses to support the entire Canadian population within approximately six months of the World Health Organization (WHO) identifying a pandemic influenza strain," the release continued.
"The investment will enable Sanofi to bulk manufacture Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent Influenza Vaccine, a flu vaccine approved for people 65 years and older, at its historic Connaught site in Toronto," a provincial release said.
All countries should be 'self sufficient': Champagne
Champagne said the pandemic has taught all countries that they need to have domestic vaccine manufacturing capacity.
"When it comes to the next pandemic flu we should be self sufficient," he said. "If there's one lesson learned from the current COVID pandemic it is that we need to have a strong Canadian biomanufacturing sector."
Champagne said that Sanofi chose Canada as the home of its new production and distribution centre after a global search.
The CEO of CIFAR, a Canadian-based global research organization, lauded the federal and provincial governments for the announcement.
Alan Bernstein, who is also a member of Canada's COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force, said securing further vaccine production capacity, even if it takes years to bring online, is vital.
"There will be future pandemics and so we we need to be ready next time and we clearly weren't this time," he said.
"We need to have our own domestic manufacturing capacity so we're not reliant on international supply chains for vaccines."
Bernstein said the federal government has made a number of vaccine-related investments in recent months and it needs to think more broadly about how it can link them together to create a comprehensive plan.
"We now need a coherent, integrated strategy to make sure that these disparate separate investments really synergize with respect to each other," he said.
With files from JP Tasker, Shawn Jeffords and The Canadian Press