updateArticle was updated 15 hrs ago
Justin Trudeau’s government found out that China’s government was getting in the way of Canada’s plan to test and potentially produce a COVID-19 vaccine made by a Chinese company just days after the prime minister announced the deal, according to newly released government documents.
The agreement between the Canadian government and CanSino Biologics Inc. would have allowed the company to be the first to conduct clinical trials for a COVID-19 vaccine in Canada. It was also the first deal through which Canada could have secured a COVID-19 vaccine supply. It wasn’t until three months later — and after Trudeau announced additional vaccine deals with two other pharmaceutical companies — that Canada’s government conceded its deal with CanSino was dead.
The National Research Council (NRC), the Canadian government’s scientific research organization, signed a deal with CanSino on May 6, 2020 to conduct phase 1 and 2 clinical trials of its COVID-19 shot, according to an NRC document that was tabled in the House of Commons on Monday.
Trials were planned to take place at Dalhousie University’s Canadian Center for Vaccinology.
CanSino’s product, called Ad5-nCoV, was considered one of the world’s top vaccine candidates at the time. It was made with the help of the Chinese military’s research arm.
“Under this agreement, CanSino was to provide candidate vaccine doses and transfer their vaccine technology, free of charge, for phase one and two clinical trials in Canada and grant the NRC a nonexclusive right to use, produce, and reproduce the vaccine for emergency pandemic use,” the NRC said in the response to a question on the House’s Order Paper from Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner.
Neither CanSino nor China’s government received any money from the Government of Canada through the deal, the NRC said. In anticipation of producing vaccines, the federal government pledged $44 million to ensure the NRC’s facilities in Montreal met manufacturing standards.
On May 12, the NRC announced its plans to work with CanSino. Four days later, Trudeau promoted the partnership at one of his then-daily media briefings.
On May 19, the Canadian government learned that the shipments of the vaccine candidate were being held by China’s customs agency at the Beijing Capital International Airport, according to documents tabled by Global Affairs Canada.
China’s State Council, the country’s cabinet, refused to issue the approval letter allowing the vaccine to ship to Canada. Around the same time, Chinese-made vaccine candidates were permitted to ship to other countries for similar trials as CanSino had agreed to with the NRC.