Construction of the CAD$126 million vaccine plant has been completed ahead of schedule in Montreal and is awaiting commissioning from the government. The plant has been set up to produce COVID-19 vaccine shots that will hopefully be rolled out later this year. Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne made the announcement that the National Research Council’s (NRC) Biologics Manufacturing Centre had completed construction, but the facility is still months from making vaccines. The equipment that will be used to make up to 24 million doses a year from the facility still has to be installed, commissioned, and tested, and the facility will have to receive certification from Health Canada. Champagne said he is hopeful the first shots could roll off production lines by December.
The vaccine plant is the larger of two facilities being built at the NRC’s Royalmount campus in Montreal. It was also one of the earliest investments the government made in vaccine manufacturing and the original plan for the facility was to have it manufacture the Chinese company CanSino’s vaccine. The Chinese government refused to ship samples to Canada for clinical trials and the government’s vaccine task force ultimately decided against buying the company’s vaccine. The government then signed a deal with Novavax after the CanSino arrangement collapsed. The second facility, which will have a much smaller capacity designed for clinical trials, ran into a variety of problems during construction and is not expected to be completed until 2022.
“What we anticipate is that, subject to regulatory approval, the plant will be able to produce vaccines by the end of the year, and then obviously more towards mass production at the beginning of next year,” said Champagne, “at least we will have our own public facility, which is owned by Canadians, in order to ensure that resiliency.”