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Canada missed chance to help homegrown vaccines move quickly last spring, developers say

Last Updated Feb 22, 2021 at 1:50 pm EST

File photo, empty vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine are seen at a vaccination center at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

Two vaccine developers in Canada say a lack of federal funding early in the pandemic kept homegrown vaccines from moving as quickly as international versions.

Vaccine developers have told a Commons committee that while other countries invested more than 300-million-dollars in funding COVID-19 vaccines, the Trudeau government spent only five-million.

John Lewis, the CEO of Entos Pharmaceuticals in Alberta, says his company is one of six that received about $5 million to move their COVID-19 vaccine along.

RELATED: Canada to ramp up vaccine rollout with over 600,000 doses arriving this week

But Lewis says other countries invested more than $300 million per company to ensure they had funding to get through the entire vaccine development process.

He says those companies, such as AstraZeneca and Pfizer, now have vaccines approved in dozens of countries.

Speaking to the House of Commons health committee today, Lewis says Canada still has no vaccine through the finish line.

Dr. Gary Kobinger, a microbiologist at Laval University who was part of Canadian teams that helped develop vaccines for Ebola and Zika, says his non-profit had a vaccine with excellent early lab results last February, but it stalled because “we couldn’t find funding.”

The Public Health Agency of Canada says it expects more than 640,000 shots from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna in the coming days.

It represents the largest number of deliveries the country has received in a single week.

The previous record was set last week when Pfizer and BioNTech delivered more than 400,000 doses of their vaccine following a month-long lull while they expanded a production plant in Europe.

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