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COVID live updates: Trudeau, Legault unveil plan to build Moderna vaccine plant in Montreal


The U.S. biotechnology company has said the manufacturing facility will ensure Canada is ready for future virus threats.

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Updated throughout the day on Friday, April 29. Questions/comments: ariga@postmedia.com

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Top updates

  • Live: Trudeau, Legault unveil plan to build Moderna vaccine plant in Montreal
  • Videos: Highlights of yesterday’s Quebec pandemic update
  • Plante confirms Moderna vaccine facility to be built in Montreal area
  • COVID in the (waste) water: How testing sewage for coronavirus variants can be ‘life-saving’
  • South Africa says it may be entering a new COVID wave driven by BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants
  • Ontario MPP Randy Hillier loses bid to overturn bail restrictions on his social media access
  • ‘Entry only. No exit:’ Beijing sees more COVID closures as anger grows in Shanghai
  • Swiss commandos lose court fight over COVID-19 jabs
  • Quebec COVID guide: Vaccinations, testing
  • Sign up for our free nightly coronavirus newsletter

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10 a.m.

Live: Trudeau, Legault unveil plan to build Moderna vaccine plant in Montreal

(This item is being updated)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier François Legault are in Montreal this morning to take part in a 10 a.m. press conference about a new Moderna vaccine research and manufacturing facility that is to be built in Montreal.

Stéphane Bancel, CEO of U.S.-based Moderna, will also be in attendance.

Watch the press conference:

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From The Canadian Press:

Moderna signed an initial agreement with the Canadian government last August to bring such a factory to Canada with the details on where to be worked out. Yesterday, Mayor Valérie Plante confirmed it will be located in Montreal.

“I believe that this technology can allow Canada to be ready for the next virus,” Bancel said in August at the announcement, which also took place in Montreal.

The Canadian agreement includes both production and vaccine research components with the building to be completed by 2024.

Bancel said last summer that the design for the facility was already complete and Moderna just needed to select a site. That decision would largely depend on the availability of trained workers, he said.

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Canada’s biomanufacturing industry has declined starkly in the last two decades but what remains of it is heavily centred in Quebec and the Greater Toronto Area. Both were in the running for this plant.

The planning agreement with Canada has not been made public but Bancel said last year the agreement ensures Canada gets priority access to doses produced there and allows Canada to ask Moderna to shift production lines to respond to a new or emerging threat.

Before COVID-19, Moderna was a small vaccine startup based in Cambridge, Mass., working on bringing an mRNA vaccine to market. It did not have its own commercial production capacity and contracted with Swiss firm Lonza to make its vaccines at first.

Its COVID-19 vaccine is its first authorized product but it now has more than two dozen others in various stages of research, including mRNA vaccines for influenza and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV.

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Moderna has grown from a company with 830 employees and annual revenues of $60 million in 2019 to one with more than 2,700 employees and $18.5 billion in revenue in 2021.

Canada’s biomanufacturing industry declined substantially in the last 40 years and when COVID-19 vaccines were needed, no facility in Canada was immediately able to make them.

It meant Canada was entirely reliant on imported vaccines, and in some cases had to pay more to get them faster.


9:05 a.m.

Videos: Highlights of yesterday’s Quebec pandemic update

Quebec will decide next week whether to end mask mandate on May 14

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How do third dose vaccination rates play a role in deciding when to remove mask mandates? 

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Why are COVID reinfections becoming more common? 

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Grim milestone: Quebec will soon see more than 15,000 deaths due to COVID-19

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9 a.m.

Plante confirms Moderna vaccine facility to be built in Montreal area

Pharmaceutical company Moderna will announce Friday it will build a new biomanufacturing plant in the Montreal area.

Mayor Valérie Plante confirmed the news on Thursday, after it was reported by several media on Wednesday. An announcement is planned today with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier François Legault.

Read our full story.


9 a.m.

COVID in the (waste) water: How testing sewage for coronavirus variants can be ‘life-saving’

Even people without symptoms of COVID shed virus in their poop.

Read our full story.


9 a.m.

South Africa says it may be entering a new COVID wave driven by BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants

From the Reuters news agency:

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South Africa may be entering a fifth COVID wave earlier than expected after a sustained rise in infections over the past 14 days that seems to be driven by the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron sub-variants, health officials and scientists said on Friday.

The country that has recorded the most coronavirus cases and deaths on the African continent only exited a fourth wave around January and had predicted a fifth wave could start in May or June, early in the southern hemisphere winter.

Health Minister Joe Phaahla told a briefing that although hospitalizations were picking up there was so far no dramatic change in admissions to intensive care units or deaths.

He said at this stage health authorities had not been alerted to any new variant, other than changes to the dominant one circulating, Omicron.

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Infectious disease specialist Richard Lessells told the same briefing that waning immunity from previous waves could be contributing to the earlier-than-expected resurgence in cases.

He said the rising share of infections attributed to the BA.4 and BA.5 sub-lineages of Omicron suggested they had a growth advantage over other Omicron sub-variants like BA.2.

But so far there was no sign that BA.4 and BA.5 were causing significantly more severe disease, said Waasila Jassat from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases.

South Africa has reported more than 3.7 million COVID cases and over 100,000 deaths during the pandemic. On Thursday, the WHO’s Africa office flagged the rise in South Africa’s infections as the main driver of an uptick on the African continent.

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Senior health official Nicholas Crisp also said on Friday that the country had enough vaccine doses and was not planning to procure more. He added the government was not intending to buy Pfizer’s COVID treatment pill Paxlovid for public sector patients, partly because it was very expensive.


8:45 a.m.

Ontario MPP Randy Hillier loses bid to overturn bail restrictions on his social media access

Randy Hillier lost his bid to lift the bail conditions that restrict him from posting his well-known support for anti-vaccine and anti-masking causes to social media.

Read our full story.


8:45 a.m.

‘Entry only. No exit:’ Beijing sees more COVID closures as anger grows in Shanghai

China’s capital Beijing closed more businesses and residential compounds on Friday, with authorities ramping up contact tracing to contain a COVID-19 outbreak, while resentment at the month-long lockdown in Shanghai grew.

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Read our full story.


8:45 a.m.

Swiss commandos lose court fight over COVID-19 jabs

Four members of Switzerland’s special forces who were fired for refusing to get vaccinated against COVID-19 have lost their bid for reinstatement, a court said on Friday.

Read our full story.


8:30 a.m.

Quebec COVID guide: Vaccinations, testing

Vaccinations

Testing

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8:30 a.m.

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ariga@postmedia.com

Read my previous live blogs here.


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