TORONTO- Sanofi will build a $925 million flu vaccine manufacturing facility in Toronto, creating 1,225 jobs and boosting Canada's access to vaccines in the event of a flu pandemic, the Canadian government said on Wednesday.
The federal government will invest $415 million in the project, and the provincial government $55 million. Sanofi has also promised at least $79 million a year to fund Canadian research and development.
While seasonal flu shots are offered every year to match circulating strains, new strains of the flu sometimes cause pandemics, like the H1N1 pandemic in 2009 and the 1918 pandemic. The 2009 pandemic kicked off a scramble for vaccines.
Sanofi already produces vaccines in Toronto, including routine childhood vaccines that are used in Canada and exported. The company selected the Canadian site to produce its high-dose seasonal influenza vaccine, Fluzone.
"This facility means better pandemic preparedness for all Canadians," the federal government said in a statement. "In the event of a future flu outbreak, Sanofi will be able to manufacture pandemic influenza vaccine at population scale at its new Toronto facility."
It said the site could make enough flu vaccine doses for the Canadian population within six months once a pandemic strain is identified.
Canada's COVID-19 vaccine campaign has lagged many other rich nations, slowed in part by a lack of local production and procurement contracts that guaranteed most doses in the second and third quarters of this year, not the first quarter.
Shipments have surged over the last two weeks, and about 12% of the population has received at least a first dose, according to data compiled by Reuters.
Flu shots are already made in Canada at a Quebec site owned by Sanofi's rival GlaxoSmithKline .
(Reporting by Allison Martell in Toronto and Steve Scherer in Ottawa; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Bernadette Baum) ((firstname.lastname@example.org; +1 416 941 8196; Reuters Messaging: email@example.com))