Good morning, everyone. I call this meeting to order.
Welcome to meeting number 14 of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology.
Today's meeting is taking place in a hybrid format, pursuant to the House order of January 25, 2021. The proceedings will be made available via the House of Commons website.
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Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2) and the motion adopted by the committee on Tuesday, December 1, 2020, the committee is meeting today to commence its study on the domestic manufacturing capacity for COVID-19 vaccine.
I'll now welcome our witnesses.
With us today, we have the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health. From the Public Agency of Canada, we have Mr. Iain Stewart, president. From the Department of Health, we have Stephen Lucas, deputy minister.
Each witness will present for up to seven minutes, followed by the rounds of questions.
With that, we will start with Minister Hajdu.
You have the floor for seven minutes.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair. I do appreciate this opportunity to speak with you and the committee about the Government of Canada's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the issue of domestic manufacturing capacity is outside the purview of my role as Minister of Health, I am happy to speak about the work our government is doing to ensure that Canadians have access to safe and effective vaccines.
I will begin with an update on vaccine distribution.
As you know, Pfizer and Moderna's vaccines have been approved in Canada and are now being distributed across the country.
So far, we have secured a total of 80 million doses of these two vaccines, and of these, 1.1 million doses have already been delivered to the provinces and territories.
Although the delays recently announced by Pfizer will have a short-term impact on vaccine rollout, we're still on track to receive the full four million doses we were expecting by the end of March. This would bring the total of doses received, both Pfizer and Moderna, to six million by the end of the first quarter.
Starting in April, the pace will accelerate, with at least 20 million doses delivered between April and June.
It is during this time that mass vaccination campaigns will begin to ramp up around the country. We are working with the provinces, territories and indigenous partners to prepare for this next phase.
Most importantly, we expect to have enough vaccine for every Canadian by the end of September 2021, even if no other vaccine is authorized for use in Canada, but we are expecting other vaccines to be authorized in the months to come, providing, of course, that they meet Health Canada's strictest standards for safety, efficacy and quality.
Given the urgency of the pandemic, we put in place measures to safely expedite the authorization process. We are now accept rolling submissions for vaccines, which means that manufacturers can submit data as it becomes available, instead of having to wait until all clinical studies are completed and then submitting en masse at the end. It was through this expedited process that Pfizer and Moderna vaccinations were authorized. Health Canada is now reviewing vaccines by AstraZeneca and Janssen using the same process.
We expect to receive more submissions in the weeks to come. We are ready should any other vaccine candidates be approved.
We have signed agreements with seven different companies to reserve COVID-19 vaccines, with an option of expanding those orders later, as we did recently with Pfizer.
This approach, which was informed by the advice of the COVID-19 vaccine task force, enabled us to secure a range of vaccine candidates early on, as it was not possible in the beginning to know which vaccine would be the most effective or available first. The signed agreements include up to 76 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine, up to 40 million doses of Moderna's vaccine, up to 72 million doses of Sanofi-GlaxoSmithKline's vaccine, up to 38 million doses from Janssen-Johnson & Johnson, up to 76 million doses from Novavax, up to 76 million doses from Medicago, and finally, up to 20 million doses from AstraZeneca.
Today I've mentioned the actions we're taking right now to ensure that Canadians have timely access to a COVID-19 vaccine. At the same time, we are looking to the future.
Early in the pandemic, the Government of Canada recognized how biomanufacturing capabilities are critical to securing access to equipment, supplies, medicines and vaccines. From a health portfolio perspective, a robust domestic biomanufacturing sector is critical for strengthening Canada's position to respond to this and future health crises and to maintain a dependable supply of safe and effective vaccines and therapies in the long term. This is why I give my full support to our government's initiatives to build this capacity, which will describe when he appears before the committee.
In Canada we are fortunate to have some of the best vaccination programs and regulatory approvals systems in the world. With these systems already in place, we were able to act quickly at the beginning of the pandemic to ensure that when a COVID-19 vaccine was ready, Canada was ready.
These well-established systems, built over many decades, will serve us well as we vaccinate Canadians against COVID-19.
Looking ahead we have an opportunity to build and strengthen this infrastructure so that we can be as prepared as possible for any public health crisis that might arise in the future.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
Thank you for inviting me to speak with you today.
I have the honour of serving as the president of the Public Health Agency. I started on September 28, 2020. I'm pleased to be here to talk about what we're doing with respect to procuring vaccines and vaccine rollout.
As the Minister of Health noted, domestic manufacturing capacity in Canada is not part of the Public Health Agency's mandate. In my remarks, then, I'll focus on securing safe and effective vaccines for all Canadians in our capacity here.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, there has been extensive engagement with provinces and territories, as well as with indigenous communities, about rolling out the vaccine to coordinate a pan-Canadian response. What we're trying to do, of course, is protect the health and safety of all people in Canada while prioritizing the first, limited number of vaccines to high-risk populations. We've been focused on trying to minimize serious illness and overall mortality while limiting societal disruptions.
With regard to acquiring COVID vaccines, we were guided by the COVID-19 vaccine task force. That task force advice led the Government of Canada to secure enough doses to provide vaccines to all Canadians. Minister Hajdu has just run through the procurements that have been lined up and put under way.
The principles guiding the use of the vaccines have been focusing on science-driven decision-making, transparency, coherence and adaptability, as well as fairness, equity and consistency in reporting. These principles continue to guide us, as does a reliance on science experts and public health expertise, to make sure that Canadians have safe COVID vaccines as they're available.
The vaccine acquisition strategy is intended to mitigate various risks to the vaccine supply. So far, as Minister Hajdu mentioned, we have two vaccines, of which we've procured a total of 80 million doses. These are two-dose vaccines, so these are enough to immunize 40 million people—our entire population. Based on the procurement schedules to date, this should be sufficient to do so this year. These of course are vaccines approved by the Health Canada regulator.
As of January 21, Canada has delivered more than 1.1 million vaccine doses. The provinces are very close now to having administered to Canadians their millionth dose against the schedule.
I think, probably as the committee knows, Pfizer deliveries will slow down for a few weeks, because the manufacturers indicated that they need to do some retooling of their production plant. They will deliver on their commitment to provide four million doses by the end of this first quarter. The Pfizer CEO confirmed to the that they're on track to do so.
Last week, the announced that the latest vaccine shipment from Moderna will also contain fewer doses than expected. Here too the company has reassured him that they will provide the two million doses they're contracted for by the end of March.
In total, we're on track to deliver six million doses of Moderna and Pfizer by the end of March 2021.
In support of enabling the provinces and territories to do their vaccine rollout, we purchased a range of ancillary supplies—needles, syringes, wipes, sharps containers, and so on—sufficient for their immunization efforts. We've distributed to the provinces their supplies in this regard for this quarter.
We also have advance purchase agreements, in addition to those with Pfizer and Moderna, as Minister Hajdu set out, with five other vaccine candidates, three of which are currently now progressing through regulatory trials here in Canada. On Friday, Janssen, AstraZeneca and Novavax began that process. We have agreements with all of these vaccine suppliers and have significant acquisitions lined up.
The vaccine candidates were selected from a number of different companies covering a broad range of technologies. The idea of having different technologies was to minimize risk, as was having a variety of companies, each with its own supply chain. It was also guided by trying to secure the earliest delivery that we could. The idea was that we would have sufficient vaccine available to immunize all Canadians free of charge. This was guided, as I mentioned, by the vaccine task force.
There are a lot of uncertainties. I think Pfizer and Moderna reflect the manufacturing uncertainties that are involved and also at the time of negotiation of the APAs it of course was not clear which ones would have successful clinical trials nor which ones would be approved by the regulator.
We've been relying on an evidence-based supply strategy to ensure we have vaccines in sufficient quantities.
In addition, Health Canada's robust process for regulatory authorization provides Canadians with assurances that the vaccines available to them are safe and effective. Here at the Public Health Agency, along with our partners in the scientific and health community, we will now be continuing to monitor the vaccines as they're rolled out. We have a well-established system for monitoring vaccine safety and we're tracking it closely. As we learn more about COVID every day, we also need to continue to learn more about the vaccines and the transmission of the virus, and so we'll continue to rely on the science community and the medical health community to guide us in that regard.
Thank you very much.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I'll direct my questions to Mr. Stewart.
My understanding is that the Novavax purchase agreement was originally announced on August 31, 2020. I'm looking at an email that was produced in documents that were released to the health committee on Friday. The email is between Bryan Blom, who was the director of communications for Public Works, I believe, and Cecely Roy, who is a press secretary at Public Works. It's an email that's going through various iterations of the press release related to the Novavax purchase agreement announcement. Mr. Blom says, “Hi Cecely - Removed reference to NRC component of Novavax MOU.”
I'm just wondering, as you were the head of the NRC at that point in time, why the NRC pulled out of a production deal in August or why that reference was removed.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Welcome to all the witnesses. Welcome, Minister. It's good to have you in our committee.
Minister, in your opening remarks you talked about two general subjects, and you left one to the appropriate department and minister.
To my understanding you talked about the vaccine approval and about the vaccine distribution. You shared with us the amount that has been procured and the timing that we're going to receive this.
Let me start with the vaccine approval. Can you share with us more detail on what you call the rolling submission and what that has done in reducing the time of the approval?
I'll talk a bit about that and then I'll turn to Deputy Minister Lucas, who is in charge of the Health Canada regulatory team.
Early on, we knew there would be the need for speed to approve a whole host of medical supplies, including vaccines and therapeutics, and obviously devices, testing, components, etc. We were able to accelerate the capacity of the regulatory body in a few different ways. One was by ensuring they had the financial and human resources to be able to greatly increase their capacity to review applications. We added people and added capacity. As Deputy Minister Lucas will tell you, in terms of vaccine approvals, there are people working literally 24 hours a day, seven days a week on teams assigned to vaccines, so that they can do a very thorough review of the data and understand it as quickly as possible.
I will also say the rolling regulatory approval for vaccines is very important. Typically, from what I've learned in this portfolio, vaccine development can take up to 10 years from the concept to the actual approval because, of course, of the need for submissions of data after every stage of the development, including a number of clinical trials, to test whether it's effective and safe. A rolling approval allows for vaccine manufacturers in this case to be able to submit data very quickly, as they acquire it, so we're not having to review mountains of data at the regulatory approval stage. Rather, we are able to review the data at each stage, as it comes in.
That allows for a very rapid back and forth as well between the manufacturers and Health Canada if there's missing data, for example, if they need clarity, if they need data to be resubmitted or if there are gaps in the data. Rather than the manufacturer having a significant lag time, in some cases, in being able to get that, they can respond very quickly.
I will turn, with your permission, to Deputy Minister Lucas for a few more words on the process.
Again, I will start and then turn to Deputy Minister Lucas for gap filling, if you will.
Yes, there is collaboration with other regulatory bodies, and data, information and analysis are shared as appropriate. Of course, each country does its own approvals, and Canada is considered a gold standard regulator. This is also beneficial to the pharmaceutical companies, because, of course, when they get approved in Canada, many other smaller countries that don't have the same level of capacity to do their own review look at Canada as a stamp of approval, if you will. That's quite valuable to the manufacturer as well. We collaborate on a regular basis with places like the EU, the FDA and others that have long-standing relationships with Health Canada regulators.
I'll turn to Deputy Minister Lucas for a few more words.
Thank you for your question.
I think that in a way, yes, maybe so.
As we've seen, the crisis has meant there is intense competition amongst countries, in some cases for the exact same product or the exact same solution. That created, as you know, in the early days, for example, a high degree of tension around personal protective equipment around the country. If you remember those early days, very few countries were producing the kind of equipment we needed. I think we see the same in terms of pharmaceuticals.
Clearly, the world is learning this lesson that there is obviously always going to be a global economy. From my perspective as Minister of Health, the work we're doing to build up our domestic manufacturing capacity is very important, not just for COVID-19, but also for the future of our capacity to respond to other crises.
I agree. We have more than we need. However, the first responsibility is to make sure that we can vaccinate Canadians. We wanted to leave no stone unturned.
One of the benefits of our approach has been to place bets, if you will, on a variety of promising candidates as steered by the vaccine task force. I've talked about this before in the House. These are exemplary Canadian volunteers with expertise in pharmaceuticals, immunology and other relevant fields who advise Canada on which of the candidates that were under development looked promising and how we should place our bets. That's exactly what we've done.
As you know, we're also a contributor to Covax, the facility that's looking at making sure the world can be vaccinated. There is an opportunity, should Canada find itself not needing additional doses, to be able to contribute even more greatly to Covax, either through options or other mechanisms.
I will agree with you—
On August 31, 2020, the Prime Minister's Office issued a press release promising the “production of 250,000 doses of vaccine per month starting in November 2020” at the National Research Council's facility in Montreal and “up to two million doses per month by next year”, that is, by 2021.
However, on November 24, 2020, claimed that COVID-19 vaccine access for Canadians would be delayed because “Canada no longer has any domestic production capacity for vaccines”.
Finally, on November 26, the NRC released a statement claiming their facility will not be ready until mid-2021 because the NRC realized in the fall that the space allocated would not meet “good manufacturing practice” requirements.
Mr. Stewart, was the misleading Canadians when, on August 31, he promised us that we would have 250,000 doses of vaccine per month starting in November 2020, and if not, can you explain that discrepancy?
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I'd like to thank all of our witnesses for being here today to answer our questions.
My first question is for Minister Hajdu. If anyone wants to chime in as well, they're more than welcome to.
The Premier of Quebec has announced several times and has made it clear that he believes that giving one dose of the vaccine to Canadians is better than giving some people two doses of the vaccine. This is very concerning to many people, because they don't necessarily think it will work or have the same effectiveness if the rules that Pfizer has given on the time between vaccines is not followed.
What role do we have to play in this? Is there any way that we can strongly encourage the Premier of Quebec to follow the instructions given by Pfizer with regard to the 45 days between doses rather than 90 days or a longer amount of time?
Thank you very much, MP Lambropoulos.
I'll just start, but maybe I'll turn to Iain Stewart because it has an intersection with the Public Health Agency of Canada or to Deputy Minister Lucas for a regulatory approval process point of view.
Obviously, the closer that we can adhere to the recommendations of the manufacturer, the better, in terms of our perspective. In fact, the vaccine was approved with adherence to the manufacturer's recommendation. It was further reviewed by NACI and then through Dr. Tam's special advisory committee to extend it to six weeks as being the maximum gap between the first and second doses.
We understand there are strong desires to vaccinate people as quickly as possible, but we also obviously want to make sure that the vaccine is as effective as possible for the individuals that we're using it for.
I'll turn to Deputy Minister Lucas to start.
Minister Hajdu, my next question goes to you as well.
We've procured Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. We've said that the next two that will possibly soon be approved and that we'll possibly have access to are AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. With the ones we currently have, we will be vaccinating all Canadians by September at the latest. That's the promise that's been made up until now.
I'm looking for a best-case scenario. If these two other vaccines were to be approved and other ones down the line as well, what is the quickest that we can get Canadians vaccinated?
I'm asking this because we don't know necessarily how long immunity lasts once someone has been given both doses. We know that it is effective for a certain amount of time, but we don't know how long that lasts. The quicker more Canadians get vaccinated, the better it'll be for Canada in the long run. I'm just wondering what a best-case scenario would look like.
Thank you, through the chair.
I'll clarify that it is not the government's strategy to focus only on those two companies. They're certainly two very promising companies and they're the first two that have been approved.
The member is right. Even if we were to approve no other companies, we would still have enough with those two companies to vaccinate every Canadian according to our current contracts. We're not stopping with just two, of course. As the member previously said, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson are in the queue to be approved. Recently, Novavax as well has filed for regulatory approval through our rolling approval process.
This is good news for Canadians, because the variety is not just important in terms of the number of doses, but in some cases, vaccines are more effective with one population over another. Vaccine manufacturers may have done research in, for example, younger populations, while others might not have. This variety is important for Canada to reach its immunization goals and to provide that option to provinces and territories as well.
You talked about securing as much variety as possible, but I want to zero in on variety of production. Of course, AstraZeneca has been mentioned and domestic production is in the news today.
We know that AstraZeneca pledged to provide its vaccine on a not-for-profit basis for the duration of the pandemic and was open to manufacturing partnerships. In fact, Australia, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, India, Japan, South Korea, China and other countries all negotiated licensing agreements to manufacture the AstraZeneca vaccine domestically and are doing so today.
Can you tell us why Canada failed to secure a similar licensing agreement to manufacture the AstraZeneca vaccine in Canada?
My last question is for Mr. Stewart.
Mr. Stewart, there was I think it's fair to call it a scathing report called “Lessons Learned” from the Public Health Agency of Canada. It was a comprehensive audit. Frankly, it revealed serious gaps in capacity at PHAC, including a lack of senior medical expertise needed to support Dr. Tam. They said it was slow to be put in place and most likely is still insufficient to provide the support required. There were gaps in critical skills, limited capacity, a lack of emergency response, management expertise, and it went on and on.
I'm going to break that down a bit. One of my biggest concerns was the finding that Dr. Tam often received information in the wrong format with inaccuracies. Now, for a government that wants to make decisions based on science, of course, we can't base science on incorrect information. Is that still a problem at PHAC or has it been fixed?
There are just a couple of things. Certainly, the has been telling Canadians that we're doing fine when it comes to fighting this pandemic and distributing vaccines, but of course some of the statistics don't particularly bear that out. Canada is now ranked 61st out of 98 countries in performance in fighting COVID, according to a think tank from Australia.
In addition, according to data collected by the University of Oxford-based Our World in Data, Canada now ranks 20th globally in terms of vaccines distributed per capita and we are behind many countries that have been doing a much better job.
Of course, there are reports today that the is refusing to show Parliament the terms of any of the contracts for the vaccines that have been acquired.
As the Minister of Health, can you assure us that this lack of transparency is only short term, so that Canadians can have the transparency that this has always promised?
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
Thank you very much, Minister, for appearing before our committee.
Minister, it seems to me, looking at all of the activity that's been going on, that our government has taken a whole-of-government approach. It's essentially consisted of three different prongs, each of which we have pursued independently. First, we've secured access to leading international vaccines. Second, we've invested in the most promising Canadian vaccines and therapies. Third, we've made strategic investments to rebuild Canada's domestic capacity.
Would that be a fair assessment? I appreciate that you're responsible for various aspects of this, but would that be a good way of summarizing our government's approach?
Through the chair, yes, I think using expertise in Canada from a variety of different perspectives in the field of vaccination has been very effective.
If you think about the fact that we have two approved vaccines, three more in the queue for approval and some very promising developments from the Canadian vaccine, Medicago, we should be very grateful to these Canadians who, by the way, did this on a voluntary basis besides the extremely busy jobs, in some cases, they were holding down, and also responding to COVID-19 in their own realms.
This use of expertise has really stood Canada well in terms of our capacity to ensure we are in fact buying the right vaccines and, as you said and I've said, placing our bets on the right candidates.
Through the chair, yes, I would say that an enormous amount of work has happened at all levels of government to prepare for the next stage of vaccination, which is really, as you point out, one that will be primarily focusing on volume.
We knew early on in the first quarter that we would not have a volume of vaccines, but we also felt that it was a good way to ramp up our vaccination process, because it would allow for the provinces and territories to have in place the infrastructure, particularly for these new vaccines that require extremely cold storage.
When we start to receive vaccines that are more, I suppose, traditional in that they don't require the same storage considerations, they can be moved more easily. In some cases they are one-dose vaccines. We know that provinces and territories have a lot of experience in that type of vaccination. Obviously, there are a number of different stakeholders who are excited to help, and that work is happening with the national operations centre to ensure that provinces and territories have the robust planning in place. Of course, we're there to assist them with any needs they might have as they do that planning.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I'll be brief. From what I understand today, Thursday will be a busy day, because we almost didn't get any answers to our questions. Mr. Davies and Mr. will have to prepare themselves well.
Madam Minister, all last fall, you told us that you had a wonderful portfolio of vaccines guaranteed worldwide. Of the seven companies, five of them will not be ready to supply vaccines until next summer, including Novavax. Novavax will produce two million doses per month. It appears that the will make the announcement this afternoon. As we speak, the two major suppliers have not been able to meet their commitment since the beginning of the year. What guarantee do you have, other than an assurance, not written but verbal, that the vaccines will be delivered in the next few months?
Thanks very much, Madam Chair.
My first question is in relation to the approval process for vaccines. Obviously, without domestic manufacturing capacity, we rely on imports and so, out of necessity, it is really important to approve these vaccines as quickly as possible.
A constituent of mine, Dr. Doan, asked why there has been a delay in approving AstraZeneca, and when we look at the EU and Australia and the U.K., why, in a crisis situation like this, a global pandemic, would we not rely upon not a single international regulator. When there is a collection of trusted regulators, three that I've referenced, why on that basis would we not expedite the approval of these critical vaccines?
I can start and then turn to Deputy Minister Lucas.
Quite frankly, the answer is that we're not comparing apples to oranges in many cases. For example, AstraZeneca can be produced in multiple sites across the world. When Health Canada does an approval, it's looking at not just the efficacy and the safety of the vaccine itself, but also the manufacturing data that goes along with where the doses destined for Canada will be produced, along with data on the individual lots that Canada is purchasing.
It seems that we're all approving the same vaccine, but in fact a vaccine produced in India versus a vaccine produced in the U.K. versus a vaccine produced in the U.S. may all have different manufacturing data that needs to be analyzed through the lens of safety.
I will turn to Deputy Minister Lucas to fill in a few more details.
Minister, I think it's well known now that your government has refused to release a single word of a single contract that you signed with vaccine manufacturers when jurisdictions such as the United States, Brazil and the European Union have made much of that information public. Other countries are disclosing details of the contracts they signed.
Your government famously said it would be transparent by default. Principles of crisis management demand straightforward communication.
You claim that you've secured the doses in presumably ironclad contracts, and that they're done. It leads to questions, Minister, that there must be something in these contracts you don't want Canadians, or the opposition, to see when you hide them.
Why won't you disclose at least basic information on these contracts, if they're so solid and back up the supply plans that you've announced?
That's an excellent question.
We're very much looking at this idea of some kind of vaccination certification documentation. As people are immunized, it will be increasingly needed, so it's a great point.
As you know and as has been discussed here today, provinces and territories are the ones administering the vaccination on the ground, and each of them has a documentation system for tracking who was immunized and who needs a second dose. What we've been doing with them is creating a sharing of that data, and as that data comes in to us, we have been putting it up on our website.
When it comes to negative aspects, for instance, adverse effects, there's a well-established network to communicate as quickly as possible that something has occurred. Fortunately, so far, there have been very few instances of problems.
There is a well-developed system in place, and through the national operations centre we're making that information transparent to each of the jurisdictions participating in the campaign.
Minister Hajdu, it has been quite a year for you. Personally, I will simply say thank you for all your answers here today and for what you've done over the last year, remaining calm and thoughtful and responding to so many different questions.
Obviously, over the last year there have been lessons learned. I wonder if you could summarize for us as we go beyond the pandemic and applying some of the lessons you've learned as Minister of Health, are there areas you can see within the ministry and within the many agencies that relate to the ministry where there's need for improved staffing, areas where we could have benefited perhaps from increased data, or anything you've learned that will be put to good use going forward?
Thank you very much for the kind words. Yes, we are actually conducting a lessons learned, broader review, as you know, in terms of the entire pandemic process.
I will just say personally, and I've said this before publicly, so it won't come as a surprise to any of my colleagues, that as someone who worked in public health with the Thunder Bay District Health Unit for nine years prior to politics—and I know you were also a minister of health at the provincial level, public health—I think the things we've all come to know now in terms of contact tracing, protection, prevention and promotion are often dramatically under-recognized as critically important to the health of a community. We spend a lot of money on physical delivery of health, the health care systems, hospitals, doctors, all the kinds of stuff that we think of when we see health, but public health typically, if lucky, might get 2% of a health care budget in any province or territory, maybe a bit more or a bit less. It plays a pivotal role in protecting the health of citizens. At the federal level, we are looking now at ways that we can ensure that the Public Health Agency of Canada has a robust footprint here within the family of departments and agencies, because that prevention and protection role that public health has played for centuries is incredibly important.
That ends our third round of questions and the time that we have with Minister Hajdu and Mr. Stewart. I want to thank you both for being with us today.
I understand that the deputy minister will remain for the last 18 minutes of committee so that he can answer any additional questions from committee members.
I want to thank you both for your hard work, and I want to thank your teams. Thank you, again, for being here today to answer all of our questions. We greatly appreciate it.
With that, we will start the next round of questions. We'll start with a five-minute round.
MP Généreux, you have the floor for five minutes.
Madam Chair, I first note that it is critically important, as noted, that public health measures coupled with testing and screening, contact tracing and isolation of cases and contacts, as well as vaccination, all continue in the work to control the pandemic.
In regard to the provinces and territories, we have worked very closely in terms of providing information on the use of those tests, provided guidance in October and have established fora to work on understanding how they can be used and sharing lessons learned.
The use of the tests is increasing day by day. For example, in the fall, Nova Scotia used the antigen tests to test people in pop-up settings associated with some downtown bars and restaurants, and they did good work. Ontario has also worked with them in workplace settings, with employers. We're seeing that work increase, and providing guidance for testing through convening provinces and territories with experts as a means of doing that.
I would just conclude by saying as well that we've provided further guidance through the expert panel on testing and screening that Minister Hajdu convened. They released a report recently—
As it relates to screening, I want to narrow in specifically as we look at reopening our schools. Here in Ontario, in Toronto, a hot spot, the provincial government has not been so clear with parents about how schools are to be reopened.
One would think, though, with what we know today, that you would have a clear, rapid testing regime using screening for, say, teachers and potentially even students, multiple times a week. You're going to have sufficient rapid testing to screen the individuals who are having to go into the workplace.
Have those conversations been active with the Province of Ontario, and if so, do we have enough rapid tests at scale for that kind of reopening to happen?
Madam Chair, the approach for regulatory authorization requires a rigorous set of stages, starting with preclinical research, including in animal models, and initial phase one trials in a small group of volunteers, which was authorized for Medicago in July, as I noted.
With those results, Medicago proceeded to the next stage, which was their combined phase two and phase three trial, in which they intend, through participation in Canada as well as in the United States, to enrol more than 30,000 adult participants.
All of these stages, coupled with their work to define their manufacturing process and ensure good manufacturing practices, will contribute to their dossier, and we can—
That ends our time today.
I'd like to thank you, Mr. Lucas, for your time today. I'd like to thank the translators, IT, the analysts and our clerks for their support.
On Thursday we have ministers and with us to further answer questions. Seeing the interest in procurement, I suggest all members who will be participating in that meeting be on early so that we can get through the sound check so that we can start our meeting on time and make sure everyone has an opportunity to ask the questions they have. We also have an update that we will have the vaccine task force coming to us during the week of the 15th. We will have further updates that will be circulated by the clerk.
With that, the meeting is adjourned.