Canada to purchase 76 million doses of Novavax coronavirus vaccine, company says

Dr. Nita Patel, Director of Antibody discovery and Vaccine development, lifts a vial with a potential coronavirus, COVID-19, vaccine at Novavax labs in Gaithersburg, Maryland on March 20, 2020, one of the labs developing a vaccine for the coronavirus, COVID-19.

Andrew Caballero-Reynolds | AFP | Getty Images

American vaccine developer Novavax announced Monday that it’s reached an agreement in principle with Canada to supply 76 million doses of its experimental coronavirus vaccine to the country.

The company said it expects to finalize an agreement to supply Canada with doses “as early as the second quarter of 2021.” The agreement is contingent on the vaccine getting a license from Health Canada, the company said.

Shares of Novavax rose more than 4% in early morning trading on the news. 

The company’s vaccine, called NVX-CoV2373, is currently in phase two trials. The company has previously said it could begin late-stage trials as early as October. 

“We are moving forward with clinical development of NVX-CoV2373 with a strong sense of urgency in our quest to deliver a vaccine to protect the world,” Novavax CEO Stanley Erck said in a statement.

The company did not disclose the financial terms of the agreement.

“This is an important step in our government’s efforts to secure a vaccine to keep Canadians safe and healthy, as the global pandemic evolves,” Anita Anand, Canada’s minister of Public Services and Procurement, said in a statement.

The agreement is the latest example of countries, particularly wealthier, Western nations, rushing to secure doses of a potential vaccine for the coronavirus, which has infected more than 25.2 million people around the world and killed at least 846,900 people. Canada previously announced similar deals with Pfizer and Moderna, two front-runners in the race toward a vaccine. 

Similarly, the U.S. has so far invested more than $10 billion in six vaccine candidates through Operation Warp Speed, the Trump Administration’s effort to accelerate the development, manufacturing and distribution of vaccines and treatments to fight the coronavirus. The goal of the initiative is to provide 300 million doses of a safe and effective vaccine by January 2021.

Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said last week that vaccine doses will likely be in short supply once a candidate is cleared for public distribution in the U.S. 

“At first, there will likely be a limited supply of one or more of the Covid-19 vaccines, because limited doses will be available,” Redfield said Friday on a conference call with reporters. “It’s important that the early vaccines are distributed in a fair, ethical and transparent way.”

Countries are moving now to secure supply for their residents through deals like the one agreed to between Novavax and Canada.

In recent weeks, World Health Organization officials have repeatedly warned that high demand for a safe and effective vaccine is already causing competition between countries and could drive prices higher.

“When a successful new vaccine is found, there will be greater demand than there is supply. Excess demand and competition for supply is already creating vaccine nationalism and risk of price gouging,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said earlier this month. “This is the kind of market failure that only global solidarity, public sector investment and engagement can solve.”

Tedros has encouraged countries to allocate funding toward the the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, which is a group launched by the WHO, a variety of philanthropic and scientific groups, among others, to accelerate the development, production and distribution of Covid-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines. He said greater investment in the program will bolster international collaboration and allow for a more effective response to the virus.

“Before spending another $10 trillion on the consequences of the next wave, we estimate that the world will need to spend at least $100 billion on new tools, especially any new vaccines that are developed,” Tedros said. “The development of vaccines is long, complex, risky and expensive. The vast majority of vaccines in early development fail. The world needs multiple vaccine candidates of different types to maximize the chances of finding a winning solution.”

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