$15 million from province to make Sask. a vaccine leader

Here are highlights from the latest COVID-19 update provided Tuesday afternoon in Regina.

The main highlight of the update was the announcement by Premier Scott Moe of $15 million in provincial funds to VIDO-InterVac, who are developing and producing a COVID-19 vaccine out of Saskatoon.

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The funds would support their new Centre for Pandemic Research. The province is also asking for $45 million in federal support in ongoing operational funding for the project.

“This will not only serve Saskatchewan residents but it will serve all Canadians in research, development and ultimately the production of new vaccines,” Moe said.

He said the funding will go to a level 4 containment facility, of which there is only one in Canada at this point, and greatly enhance VIDO-InterVac’s research and development capabilities.

Moe said he and minister of export and trade Jeremy Harrison had written to and had conversations with senior federal ministers about the proposal as recently as the previous evening. Moe said he was hopeful and confident of federal support.

Construction would be completed by this October and production would begin sometime in 2022, with a capability to produce up to 40 milllion vaccines a year.

This is unlikely to have much of an impact on the current vaccination drive.

VIDO-InterVac Director Dr. Volker Gerdts joined Moe at the news conference and welcomed the funding announcement.

Gerdts said the new facility will be at the University of Saskatchewan and will “focus both on human diseases as well as animal diseases and thus have a huge impact on our lives and that of our animals.”

Also at the news conference, Moe noted that the province had settled into a “predictable but frustrating pattern”, where each week the province receives a few thousand doses, where healthcare workers administer the vaccine into peoples arms for the next three or four days, and then they wait for the next shipment to arrive.

“We could have this happen much more quickly if we were receiving enough vaccines, to be delivering shots in more locations, possibly all locations, across the province and on a more consistent basis.”

He said he wasn’t there to point fingers, but to ensure it never happens again. He said Canada should be a world leader in development and production of vaccines.

In his remarks chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab said their overall seven day average per 100,000 is 12.7, and the test-positive rate is also trending down to seven per cent.

There are now six confirmed cases of variants of concern in Saskatchewan, but while the first three cases were linked to travel the latest three were not.

“We really need to stay the course overall, and especially with the variants of concern,” said Dr. Shahab. “It’s really important that we keep our overall numbers trending downward.”

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