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As Canada awaits vaccine doses, relying on other countries is the wrong approach: U.K. expert – CTV News

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TORONTO —
Countries like Canada that are waiting for vaccine shipments amid an international shortage could have done more in the early days of the pandemic to boost their own domestic production capacity, according to a leading vaccine expert from the United Kingdom.

Oxford University Regius professor of medicine Sir John Bell was responsible for overseeing the development of the Astrazeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine, which is approved in the U.K. but not yet in Canada. He said the U.K. went to great lengths to scale up its production in early 2020 as vaccine trials began.

“We started from nothing, and we’re now pretty pleased that we’re in pretty good shape. Lots of other countries decided that they would rely on others, and that perhaps has not proved to be the right strategy,” Bell told CTV’s Question Period in an exclusive interview with Evan Solomon airing Sunday.

Canada received zero new shipments of vaccines earlier this week due to a production delay from Pfizer, which is making adjustments to its factory in Belgium. At the same time, federal officials are in talks with Pfizer over whether a vial can supply five or six vaccines — a difference that has raised questions about whether Canada will lag behind its goal to vaccine 3 million Canadians by the end of March.

But the U.K. and the U.S. have not seen the same slowdown because they have a larger production capacity.

Bell, who is Canadian, said Canada should think of vaccines as a health security issue and suggested that Canada is “overly dependent” on the U.S.

“Although the current administration in the U.S., I think will be more sympathetic — the previous administration was not going to give you a leg up on any of this stuff. So you know you do have to be independent and autonomous in these health security issues,” he said.

The federal government has invested more than $126 million to build a new biomanufacturing facility in Montreal to help produce vaccine candidates for emergency use. The site remains under construction and is expected to be ready by July.

Another facility in Montreal is being upgraded to help produce vaccines, but it also remains under construction. The government says that, based on a “conservative approach,” the facility could produce 250,000 doses per month depending on the vaccine’s specifications.

The U.K. was able to increase its vaccine manufacturing capabilities from “very close to zero” in a matter of 10 months, Bell said. The strategy was to repurpose existing manufacturing facilities elsewhere in the country to suit vaccine production.

“They repurposed those, they transferred the technology to them, they learned how to scale up, they went through all the hard yards it takes to become a manufacturing facility,” he said.

Asked if Canada missed an opportunity in the early days of the pandemic, Bell said: “I’m not going to get into a discussion about whether you guys did the right thing or the wrong thing. The reality is you don’t have enough vaccine, you know you need to get on with it.”

One way to speed up vaccine distribution would be to approve more vaccines. Bell pointed to the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, which is still under review by Health Canada, as one possibility.

“That will increase your numbers pretty dramatically,” he said.

Health Canada revealed Friday that it is on track to approve the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine by mid-February and suggested that a fourth vaccine approval may not be far behind.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said Canada’s rollout strategy has been held up by the fact that the government did not go far enough in its efforts to produce vaccines in Canada.

“Last March, April when we saw countries hoarding PPE, medical supplies, planes not leaving tarmacs — did they think it was going to be better with the vaccine?” O’Toole told CTV’s Question Period.

The federal government’s main strategy has long been to procure a variety of vaccine candidates from multiple producers across the globe in the event that they were approved, thereby diversifying Canada’s stockpile. In total, Canada has secured more than 400 million vaccine doses from several companies, but so far only two — Moderna and Pfizer — have been approved.

As of Friday, just over 2 per cent of Canada’s population has received at least their first vaccine, according to tracking by CTVNews.ca.

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UK’s Kendal Nutricare to deliver 2 million cans of baby formula to the US by June

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London, United Kingdom (UK)- Will McMahon, the commercial director of Kendal Nutricare, has said the company will deliver 2 million cans of baby formula to the United States (US) by June this year.

Baby formula shortages began to take hold in the US last year amid supply chain issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the situation deteriorated in February when Abbott Laboratories, one of the country’s main manufacturers, with a 40 percent market share, recalled some of its products and shut down a manufacturing plant after four babies who had been fed formula made at the facility contracted a rare bacterial infection (Cronobacter sakazakii) with two of them later dying.

“The bigger opportunity here is as a company we have been in touch with the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and working with them for over five years with the aim of bringing a product into the US. There is enormous curiosity and demand for Kendamil in the States, so we are hopeful that we will have everything in place with the FDA to be able to continue to supply legitimately well beyond November,” said McMahon.

More so, the US normally produces 98 percent of the infant formula it consumes, with imports mainly coming from Mexico, Ireland and the Netherlands but last week, the White House eased import requirements and announced an effort to transport baby formula from abroad dubbed Operation Fly Formula.

Nevertheless, the FDA said it is doing everything in its power to make sure there is enough baby formula for parents and caregivers who need it adding that it is in discussions with other manufacturers and suppliers about bringing other baby formulas to the US.

“Our recent steps will help further bolster the supply of infant formula, including through the import of safe and nutritious products from overseas based on our increased flexibilities announced last week.

Importantly, we anticipate additional infant formula products may be safely and quickly imported into the US in the near-term based on ongoing discussions with manufacturers and suppliers worldwide,” said FDA Commissioner, Dr. Robert Califf.

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Trudeau cancels appearance at Surrey fundraiser over protest-related safety concerns – CBC.ca

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau cancelled plans to attend a Liberal party fundraising dinner in Surrey on Tuesday evening as a result of safety concerns over a large gathering of protesters outside the event.

Protesters allegedly harassed and hurled racial slurs at attendees and volunteers, many of whom were South Asian, according to Surrey Centre MP Randeep Sarai. 

The fundraiser was being held at Aria banquet hall.

Sarai says that a group of protesters were stationed outside the front gates of the event, eventually growing to around 100 people.

“They just started swearing, yelling, screaming at anyone that was going through,” said Sarai.

“We had a lot of South Asian volunteers… that were harassed, sworn at, called towel head, rag head, you’re all immigrants.”

He says it’s unclear what the group was actually protesting.

Surrey RCMP confirmed in a statement that there were several vehicles and larger trucks towing trailers that were travelling “in a convoy style loop around the roadway.”

“Due to the size and composition of the protest group and for the safety of everyone in attendance, a decision was made that it was not safe for the prime minister to attend the location,” said Cpl. Vanessa Munn.

Trudeau did not enter the building and spoke to a crowd for about three minutes by Zoom instead of making a speech in person. Trudeau said he would return to see his supporters in Surrey in the future.

WATCH | Justin Trudeau talk about the unruly crowd and its impact on free speech:

Trudeau says nobody should be intimidated for supporting a political party

7 hours ago

Duration 1:27

The prime minister comments on protesters yelling racial slurs at an event he was forced to cancel.

Wednesday, at an event in Saskatoon, Trudeau addressed what happened at the fundraiser in Surrey, adding that nobody should be intimidated for supporting a political party.

“The safety of Canadians choosing to make their voices heard in politics should never be in question as it was last night,” he said.

“The fundamental freedoms we have as a country, and we enjoy as Canadians, need to be defended, need to be protected.”

Protesters swore at Prime Minister

Protesters used expletives as they chanted against Trudeau and honked horns outside the convention centre. About half a dozen RCMP officers stood by watching the crowd.

Sarai says the protesters turned the event into a hostile environment.

“This is not reflective of Surrey at all,” he said.

“Surrey is a very diverse city, a very friendly city, a very welcoming city.”

And while he respects the public’s right to protest, he says “you should never spew hate and use the vulgarity that was being used there.”

Protests against party leaders

Earlier this month, police began investigating after a video circulated on social media showed people hurling verbal abuse at NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh during a protest in Peterborough, Ont.

The federal NDP leader had dropped by the campaign office of an Ontario NDP candidate running in the provincial election.

A video shows Singh encountering protesters as he left the campaign office, and they can be heard shouting expletives at him and calling him a “traitor”‘ as he gets inside a vehicle.

Singh later told reporters he found the experience “intense, threatening [and] insulting”‘ but that he is more worried about what it means for politics in general.

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The latest on the French-language Conservative leadership debate in Laval

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LAVAL, Que. — Conservative leadership hopefuls are squaring off — in French — in the second official debate of the race, which is being held in Laval, Que.

Here are the latest developments. All times eastern:

8:55 p.m.

Conservative leadership candidates Patrick Brown and Leslyn Lewis took turns attacking rival Pierre Poilievre for his embrace of the cryptocurrency Bitcoin as a solution to inflation.

Lewis, who is often reading from her notes during the French-language debate in Laval, Que., said Poilievre’s position was wrong.

At one point, Brown said Poilievre’s position on Bitcoin was similar to that of the leadership in El Salvador, which adopted Bitcoin as legal tender.

The International Monetary Fund urged the Central American country to drop Bitcoin as its official currency earlier this year, citing its volatility.

___

8:20 p.m.

Former Quebec premier Jean Charest says Canada must renegotiate the Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States.

He says that is how he would deal with “illegal immigration,” such as migrants entering the country through the unofficial border crossing at Roxham Road south of Montreal.

Candidates were asked about immigration as the first question in the debate.

Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown used the question to say he was trying to build an inclusive party and attacked Ottawa-area MP Pierre Poilievre for not publicly condemning the “white replacement” conspiracy theory espoused by Pat King, a leader of the Ottawa convoy protest.

Poilievre responded by saying he has in fact condemned King’s remarks and that people couldn’t believe anything Brown says.

While answering a question about public safety, Poilievre said the country needs to better deal with guns illegally brought into Canada.

Charest said Poilievre has no businesses talking about law and order when he supported the Ottawa convoy, which he called an illegal blockade.

The room then erupted into a mix of cheers and boos.

___

8:10 p.m.

Candidates took to the stage and began by outlining one by one what legacy they wanted to leave behind as leaders.

Pierre Poilievre says he wants his legacy to be making Canada the freest country in the world, including by making sure people don’t feel forced to get vaccinated and that young people are able to afford a home.

Patrick Brown says he can win in urban areas, which the party needs, and has what it takes to build a party that can succeed in a general election.

Roman Baber, an Independent member of the Ontario legislature, introduced himself to the crowd.

He says he knows Canada is bilingual and has taken lessons, but still asked those watching to forgive his French.

___

8:05 p.m.

The Conservative party’s leadership organizing committee announced before the debate began that it will announce the results of the leadership race at a downtown Ottawa convention centre on Sept. 10.

The party’s president, Robert Batherson, says it will be the first time since 2018 that members will gather together at a national event.

The party held a convention in Halifax in 2018.

___

7:50 p.m.

House music issued from amplifiers as Conservatives of all ages began to take their seats ahead of tonight’s leadership debate.

Several hundred attendees, who were not wearing masks, crowded the ballroom of the Chateau Royal venue north of Montreal, seated between television cameras and the stage.

The six contenders are slated to appear at their podiums at 8 p.m.

___

7:30 p.m.

Conservative leadership candidates filed in for the race’s only French-language debate, being held at a reception hall north of Montreal.

The suburban venue in Laval, Que., saw scores of federal Tories and onlookers mingling in the foyer before the six contenders take the stage.

Former Quebec premier Jean Charest greeted a handful of supporters with kisses, while Ontario MP Scott Aitchison chatted with party members amid sign-up booths for each candidate.

Bookending the stage beneath ballroom chandeliers were a bank of speakers and 14 flags — six with the Fleur-de-lis, eight with the Maple Leaf.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 25, 2022

 

The Canadian Press

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