By Jessica Berget, Assistant Editor
Canada’s patent protection can be years shorter and much more complex than in other countries which makes Canada a less desirable place to make pharmaceutical drugs.
Canada has recently surpassed the US in reported cases; 205.73 new cases per million in Canada were recorded while the United States currently sits at 205.12. According to the Canada COVID-19 Tracker, Canada has administered over 8,330,000 vaccines with 815,000 people now vaccinated (about 10 percent of the population); BC has administered 1,112,101 vaccines and vaccinated over 87,700 people (third overall compared to other provinces). Compared to the US with about 178.8 million people or 20 percent of their population now vaccinated (as of April 10) and the rising of COVID-19 cases, many Canadians wonder what’s the holdup with our vaccine administration.
The onus of the vaccine rollout in Canada is the production of the said vaccines. Since Canada has no domestic vaccine or drug production or manufacturing company, we have to rely on imported vaccines to innoculate our population. Paired with the delays and suspension of the available vaccines, how competitive the market is, and US with the largest vaccine manufacturing means in the world, it’s no wonder why Canada has fallen behind US on vaccine matters. As such, many might wonder why Canada does not have the facilities to make their own vaccines; it has to do with the way Canada patents.
According to Robert Van Exan, a retired vaccine industry consultant in an article by the Atlantic, the reason Canada doesn’t make their own drugs domestically is because of how complicated the process is here as compared to US. Exan explains that most countries give pharmaceutical companies drug patents guaranteeing them a term of market exclusivity as a reward for 10 to 15 years in research and development. He says that Canada’s patent protection can be years shorter and much more complex than in other countries which makes Canada a less desirable place to make pharmaceutical drugs. He also says the Canadian government can regulate drug and vaccine pricing which is another turnoff and that Canada is in the process of adding more rigor to the price regulator.
BC’s vaccine delivery lags behind provinces like Ontario and Quebec, but BC’s Health Minister Adrian Dix says BC is not behind on the vaccination rollout. He claims the numbers were impacted by a big shipment of vaccines that was delivered to the province over the weekend and are being administered as soon as possible. He says although the delivery of the vaccines to health authorities takes a while, the administration has been extremely efficient.
As of April 12, a batch of more than one million doses of Pfizer and 850,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine is on its way to Canada. They have also approved the Johnson and Johnson vaccine but it remains unclear when those will be delivered and no doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot are expected as it is still suspended in Canada for those under 55 years of age.