Updating Canadians on COVID-19 and new support to produce vaccines and treatments in Canada
For a lot of people, it’s not just today that feels like Groundhog Day – it’s the whole past year.
Not only are days in quarantine repeating themselves, but we’re also wondering just how long this winter is going to last.
If you’re tired and overwhelmed, that’s understandable.
The past 12 months have been really hard.
Maybe your kids are doing school from the kitchen table.
Or your parents are in a senior’s home.
Or your business has had to close temporarily – perhaps repeatedly.
No one expects this pandemic to end overnight, but you’re probably looking for signs that things will get just a little bit easier.
Well, this weekend, we passed an important milestone.
It’s now been 3 weeks with COVID-19 cases consistently falling across the country.
This is because of the choices people have made to keep each other safe.
It’s because across the country, people are stepping up to do the right thing.
Your actions are making a difference.
But we can’t let our guard down now.
Doubling down is how we’ll see even fewer people get sick and how we’ll save lives.
Remember, this is for now, this is not forever.
We’re very much on track to get everyone who wants a vaccine, vaccinated by September.
More than 1.1 million vaccine doses have already been delivered to the provinces and territories, and nearly 87% of them have been administered.
Those who are most vulnerable are receiving these vaccines, and they could save their lives. This includes frontline workers and residents of long-term care centres.
And because we are on track to receive all of the Pfizer and Moderna doses promised by the end of March, millions of Canadians will get their shots by then, and millions more will get them this spring.
We won’t rest until every Canadian who wants a vaccine has received one.
Now, this is no small task.
And we knew there would be some hurdles along the way with unpredictability and increased demand for production.
That’s why we created a smart, proactive plan on vaccines and vaccine rollout.
It’s why we secured as many options as possible, with hundreds of millions of doses from companies around the world.
And it’s why we invested in vaccine development and manufacturing here at home.
And on that front, I have good news to share.
Two companies - Precision NanoSystems and Novavax – are now on track to manufacture vaccines right here in Canada.
This is a major step forward to get vaccines made in Canada, for Canadians.
To begin with, we’ve signed a memorandum of understanding with Novavax to produce their COVID-19 vaccines at the new NRC Royalmount facility in Montreal.
Pending Health Canada approval, tens of millions of Novavax COVID-19 doses will be made right here at home.
Last September, I visited the site of the new Human Health Therapeutics Research Centre facility on Royalmount Avenue in Montréal, where tens of millions of Novavax doses will be made.
With funding from us, they sped up construction and the facility should be ready by the end of the summer.
Once the facility is certified, it will have a production capacity of about 2 million doses of vaccine per month.
We need as much domestic capacity for vaccine production as possible.
That’s why we’ve already invested $46 million in the vaccine development facility at the University of Saskatchewan’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization.
The good news we’ve just heard is that VIDO-Intervac now projects they will be able to produce up to 40 million doses annually.
We are investing in Canada’s biomanufacturing sector for today and for the long term.
In addition to the work in Montréal and Saskatoon, thanks to a federal investment of $25 million, Precision NanoSystems in Vancouver is also going to build a manufacturing centre that can produce up to 240 million doses of vaccine each year.
For the last 5 years, our government has invested in science and Canadian expertise.
Supporting research and manufacturing in Canada benefits everyone.
We are protecting people today, and we are supporting good jobs for many years to come.
They are safe and effective.
When it’s my turn, I’ll be ready to roll up my sleeve and get my doses.
These vaccines save lives, so I hope you’ll join me.
As part of our rollout plan, we’re investing $64 million to make sure you know when and where to get vaccinated, the many safety measures in place, and why it’s such a good idea to get your shot.
No one who wants a vaccine will be left behind.
No community will miss out.
Just yesterday, the Canadian Rangers and members of the Canadian Armed Forces began working alongside ORNGE in Ontario.
They are currently supporting vaccinations in the first 8 of 32 priority communities of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation.
In many cases, these Rangers are helping out in their own communities, to ensure that everyone has the support they need.
No matter where you are, if you want a vaccine, we’ll make sure you get one.
Our top priority is protecting you and your family.
We are not just working to ensure that vaccines are delivered and administered, we are also investing in treatments and testing.
We are investing $14 million to help Edesa Biotech in Markham, Ontario, develop a treatment for COVID-19.
This treatment could save the lives of people who become seriously ill due to COVID-19.
This could be a new tool for us to use, in addition to other promising treatments developed in Canada, including those from Arch Biopartners.
As for testing, we have already delivered more than 17 million rapid tests to the provinces and territories.
But so far, only a little over 3 million have been used.
I continue to encourage the provinces to use them.
These tests must be used, whether in schools, long-term care centres or workplaces.
They are critical to keeping the number of cases as low as possible. In the weeks and months to come, they are going to be extremely important for keeping our numbers low until everyone can be vaccinated.
To ensure the tests get to the people who need them, we are now working directly with the private sector.
Along with the provinces and territories, our government is working with CDL Rapid Screening Consortium, which is collaborating with a number of businesses to rollout the tests in workplaces.
The Consortium’s mission is to ensure the safety of workplaces, and that is our priority as well.
These rapid tests will give people who cannot work from home an opportunity to be tested and additional protection.
As the specialists have clearly said: the large-scale distribution of rapid tests can really help contain the number of cases.
We are doing all we can to protect people at work and control the number of cases.
On vaccines, on treatments, on testing – our top priority is making sure you and your family get through this crisis.
But we can’t do this alone.
So when you wear a mask, when you keep your distance, when you stay at home, when you avoid gatherings – you’re helping to help save lives.
So keep it up.
We have to stay strong a little longer.
But I know we’re all up to the challenge.
After all, the story of Canada is of people who never gave up, who never stop striving for a better tomorrow.
That’s something I was reminded of yesterday, when I was at a virtual event with the first Black NHLer, Willie O’Ree, and some of the many young people he has inspired.
From coast to coast to coast, Black Canadians have shaped our country.
The reality is, though, that their stories are far too often ones of hard-won victories through adversity.
The difficult truth is this:
Anti-Black racism, systemic discrimination, and unconscious bias still exist in Canada.
And that has to change.
As we rebuild from this pandemic, this is our time to act.
This is our time to end injustices and inequalities, and create a better, stronger country for everyone.
Last year, we took concrete measures to give Black communities across the country more resources.
We launched Canada’s very first Black Entrepreneurship Program, and we continued to implement our anti-racism strategy.
We know that there is still a lot of work to be done.
We have to eliminate the systemic inequalities in our justice system.
As Black History Month begins, we must all be aware that this more than just a chance to reflect on the achievements of Black Canadians. We must also join efforts to build a better and stronger country.
Before I wrap it up for today, I want to give everyone a quick update on our work with the new American administration.
Yesterday, I had a very productive call with Vice President Harris.
We discussed shared priorities on everything from fighting this pandemic and creating good jobs, to addressing climate change and strengthening our trading relationship.
Canadians and Americans have long stood together not just as neighbours and allies, but as friends.
I’m looking forward to working with both Vice President Harris and President Biden as we tackle these challenges and opportunities.