Feds pour $1.1B into COVID-19 vaccine development, tracking of cases

Feds pour $1.1B into COVID-19 vaccine development, tracking of cases

OTTAWA — While the arrival of a COVID-19 vaccine in the near future would be ideal, other solutions to the pandemic it has caused might appear first, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in announcing more than $1 billion for medical research and testing to battle the virus.

The federal government also created a task force Thursday to oversee blood-test surveys to see how widely the virus has spread in Canada and provide reliable estimates of immunity and vulnerabilities among Canadians.

The new cash builds on $275 million in research funding the Liberals announced in March at the outset of the pandemic.

Most of the new money is aimed at funding vaccine development and clinical trials, including $600 million over two years through a federal innovation fund.

Smaller amounts will support scientific efforts to prevent the rapid spread of COVID-19 and a project led by Genome Canada to track the virus, its different strains and how it makes people ill in different ways.

“A vaccine, obviously, arriving soon would be the best solution,” Trudeau told a news briefing outside his Ottawa residence.

But he said it may be a long while before a vaccine emerges, and there are discussions about treatments for COVID-19 that might also be effective.

“I mean, we’ve been waiting for and looking for and searching for a vaccine for AIDS for decades now and it still hasn’t come. But there are treatments that mean quality of life for people with HIV have been massively improved,” Trudeau said.

“There are different ways of moving through. We will take the best ways we possibly can as we move forward.”

The new COVID-19 immunity task force will operate under the direction of a group that includes Theresa Tam, the country’s chief medical officer, and Mona Nemer, the chief federal science adviser.

“They’ll be looking at key questions like how many people beyond those we’ve already tested have had COVID-19, whether you’re immune once you’ve had it and, if so, how long that lasts,” Trudeau said.

The government expects at least one million Canadians will be tested over two years as part of the study.

The current standard testing checks for the presence of the virus now, but immunity testing identifies antibodies that reveal who has been exposed to the virus previously, Nemer told a briefing Thursday. Together, the two will provide a better picture of the overall number of people who have been infected.

Data will help with everything from rollouts of a potential vaccine to determining which public health measures are most effective.

“The better we understand this virus, its spread and its impact on different people, the better we can fight it and eventually defeat it,” Trudeau said.

About 20,000 Canadians are being tested daily to see if they have COVID-19, almost double the number earlier this month. But testing must accelerate even further before Canadians can begin resuming their usual activities, the prime minister said.

The various initiatives outlined Thursday are about empowering scientists and researchers and giving them tools they need, said Innovation, Science and Industry Minister Navdeep Bains.

“Science is a fundamental component to beating COVID-19 and in order for us to move ahead we need to search for and develop therapeutics and vaccines and we need to have the capacity to manufacture them in Canada as well,” he said in an interview.

“This made-in-Canada solution and this mobilization effort is very much focused on the health crisis, but also going to benefit Canada in the medium and long-term as well.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 23, 2020.

—With files from Jordan Press

—Follow @JimBronskill on Twitter

Jim Bronskill , The Canadian Press


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Be on the lookout for Comet NEOWISE

Big Dipper’s bottom two stars point to comet

Alberta conservationist stunned by police surveillance of meeting with minister

A well-known conservationist who met with an Alberta cabinet minister at a… Continue reading

Bank of Canada set to make rate announcement, release economic outlook

OTTAWA — The Bank of Canada will make its latest interest rate… Continue reading

Statistics Canada says manufacturing sales rose 10.7 per cent in May

OTTAWA — Statistics Canada says manufacturing sales rose in May after posting… Continue reading

Virus resurgence forces countries to reimpose restrictions

PROMACHONAS, Greece — Countries around the world are reimposing lockdowns and implementing… Continue reading

12 former Rebels suit up at NHL training camps

There will be plenty of former Red Deer Rebels talent sprinkled across… Continue reading

Central Alberta Co-op donates 50k to Lacombe high school for goat barn

Central Alberta Co-op is helping a local school program in Lacombe with… Continue reading

COVID-19 isn’t like a war

The collective effort to fight the coronavirus pandemic has been called the… Continue reading

Michael Dawe: This isn’t the first summer Red Deer’s fair has been cancelled

Normally, today, July 15, would have been the start of the annual… Continue reading

If you visit Sylvan Lake, take your garbage home with you

This past weekend saw the invasion of our quiet town with people… Continue reading

The futility of hoping for justice persists in the Balkans

“Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown,” says an old friend to Jack Nicholson… Continue reading

Three all-Canadian exhibition games part of NHL’s relaunch in Toronto, Edmonton

NEW YORK — The NHL has unveiled further details on the schedule… Continue reading

U.S. COVID-19 situation complicates Blue Jays’ plans to play at home: Njoo

OTTAWA — Canada’s deputy public health officer says the federal government would… Continue reading

Most Read