$425.9M pandemic flu contract awarded

Canada's main pandemic flu vaccine contract is a $425.9-million deal for 10 years with GlaxoSmithKline Inc.

GlaxoSmithKline gets 10-year contract, backup supplier deal worth $33M

Rod Parnell, left, closes his eyes as he receives the H1N1 flu vaccine from a nurse at a clinic in Vancouver in 2009. Canada's new pandemic flu vaccine includes a main and backup supplier. (Rod Parnell/Canadian Press)

GlaxoSmithKline has been awarded a $425.9-million contract to make sure Canadians have enough vaccine to fight a flu pandemic in the next 10 years.

The federal government announced the contract Friday.

The contract with GlaxoSmithKline of Mississauga is meant to reduce delays in delivery and distribution of pandemic vaccine and ensure access at a competitive price if needed, Health Canada said.

The company will make the vaccine at its plant in Ste-Foy, Que.

Sanofi Pasteur Ltd. of Toronto was awarded a three-year, $33.1 million deal to provide vaccine for more vulnerable populations during a pandemic, including pregnant women and those suffering from a chronic disease.

"We have worked with our provincial and territorial counterparts to provide governments with a broader range of vaccine products for seasonal flu and to deliver on the commitment to have a long-term pandemic vaccine contract in place before the current contract expires," Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said in a release.

The current contract, also held by GlaxoSmithKline, expires March 31.

"Our new primary pandemic vaccine supply contract provides timely, cost-effective access to a secure domestic supply of vaccine for Canadians in the event of an influenza pandemic," Aglukkaq said.

Some provincial health officials said vaccine distribution was slow during the H1N1 outbreak that got underway in 2009.

In December 2010, a federal report said vaccine rollout needs to be smoother. A Senate committee also recommended Canada adopt a backup supplier for pandemic vaccine.

Friday's announcement also included a three-year contract with Novartis Pharmaceuticals Canada Inc., worth $49.9 million, to provide the provinces and territories with vaccine for their annual influenza immunization campaigns.

"In 2001, Canada was the first country that actually put in place an overall strategy for pandemic vaccine supply," Dr. John Spika, director general of the Public Health Agency of Canada's Centre for Immunizations and Respiratory Infectious Disease, said in an interview.

"Being the first, we didn't do things perfectly. With 2009 H1N1, we've learned a lot. And I think the new contract really incorporates some of those learnings."

GSK is the supplier for half of the seasonal vaccine, and Sanofi and Novartis will provide the other half, Spika said.