Alberta Premier Jason Kenney continues to push the federal government to deliver more COVID-19 vaccine doses.
In a press conference about protecting boreal ecosystems in Northeast Alberta, Kenney also addressed concerns about vaccines in Alberta.
The province has administered 129,452 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine so far and close to 37,000 people have been fully immunized.
Alberta was supposed to roll out Phase 1B in February, vaccinating all seniors over the age of 75 and First Nations, Métis and persons 65 years of age and over living in a First Nations community or Metis Settlement, but delays in shipments of the Moderna and Pfizer BioNTech vaccine has caused a slowdown of that plan.
Kenney said he has spoken with other premiers about domestic production of the vaccine, as well as a local company. He has reached out to the president of Providence Therapeutics, a Calgary-based company that could produce a COVID-19 vaccine.
Kenney indicated that the company needs a $150 million order that represents 50 million doses of the vaccine.
“We are pursuing domestic production and potential supply because we apparently cannot rely on the federal procure vaccine doses from around the world, which is why we’ve been in discussions with Providence,” Kenney said, adding there is another company in Phase 1 of vaccine production that officials have connected with.
“A small order by ourselves would not be adequate to secure domestic production, should Providence get to Phase 3 trials in Canada.”
Kenney said domestic production of vaccines is essential because even if it doesn’t start until 2022, they can resell those doses on the international market. In the meantime, it’s also necessary because he believes the federal government has not been able to deliver doses in a timely manner.
“It’s obvious we can’t count on international vaccine supply during COVID-19, given the vaccine nationalism and the failure of the federal government to get strong enough contracts to access supply,” Kenney said.
According to the federal government’s vaccine distribution website, Alberta is slated to receive more than 62,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine over the next month and 35,800 doses of the Moderna vaccine in February.
“We’re told by the federal government that we’re going to get enough supply to get to widespread immunity by September. We don’t know whether we can count on that, because supply keeps evapourating,” he said.
“We shouldn’t take any chances. We need a belt and suspenders. We need to keep putting pressure on the federal government, to in turn put pressure on the international suppliers… we should also plan for the worst. Hope for the best, plan for the worst.”