The federal health committee voted Wednesday to uncover why a failed pharmaceutical company — whose COVID jab never made it to market — received a $300 million contract from taxpayers.
Conservative MP Stephen Ellis tabled the inquiry upon learning the feds paid Medicago $150 million to secure 76 million jabs. The Liberal government also provided the Québec-based company another $173 million to build a manufacturing facility and to facilitate vaccine research and development.
"Three hundred million dollars of taxpayer money was wasted and [...] was hidden deep in a document," Ellis told the committee, as first reported by the CBC. "The sunny ways and transparency of this Liberal government have gone long and far and deep into some dark, dank cave."
Before the parliamentary health committee voted to launch the study, Health Minister Mark Holland snarkily said Conservatives are asking for "a connection with psychics so we can know the future."
"Imagine the world the Conservatives are saying where we should have picked one and guessed that would've worked out," he said.
In October 2020, the Liberal government signed a "non-refundable" advance purchase agreement with Medicago despite no reassurances that Health Canada would approve the vaccine for consumption.
Though approved in 2022, Medicago reversed course on mass-production after the World Health Organization (WHO) rejected its application for emergency use over ties to a major tobacco company. Including Medicago, the feds signed agreements with Moderna (up to 44 million doses), Pfizer-BioNTech (up to 51 million), Johnson and Johnson (up to 38 million), Novovax (up to 76 million), Sanofi-GlaxoSmithKline (up to 72 million), and AstraZeneca (20 million).
Holland justified their advance purchase agreements with the manufacturers, stating his government had to provide Canadians with a quick vaccine supply. "Let's remember back to the depths of the pandemic when we were all praying for a vaccine,” he told reporters. “The government did the responsible thing."
As of writing, senior government officials have refused to disclose how much taxpayers paid for those vaccines. According to Blacklock’s Reporter, industry rates from all vaccine manufacturers ranged from $14.50 per dose in the European Union to $19.50 in the United States. In a December 6 report, Canada's Auditor General said costs averaged about $30 per dose.
In that same report, the federal agency had a large surplus, leading to considerable vaccine wastage. Between December 2020 and December 2022, Ottawa purchased approximately 169 million doses for nearly $5 billion. Of that, the federal government wasted $1 billion in COVID jabs.
During that period, Canadians received 84.1 million COVID jabs, with 32.5 million doses unused as of May 2022. Another 13.6 million expired at the time of the report.
Holland condemned the accusations of wastefulness by opposition parties as "completely unfounded."
"To secure early access to safe and effective vaccines for everyone eligible to be vaccinated in the county, the Government of Canada set up advance purchase agreements with several manufacturers," concurred Health Canada spokesperson Chris Aoun in an interview with the National Post.
However, Medicago closed its doors following shareholder divestment in late 2022 by Philip Morris International (PMI). Mitsubishi Chemical Group cited "significant changes" to the vaccine market for its closure.
During committee, Conservative MP Rick Perkins asked if Mitsubishi Chemical Group is going to walk away with Medicago’s intellectual property and vaccine patents.
Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne told reporters Tuesday they are in the midst of negotiating a settlement with Mitsubishi to obtain the intellectual property produced by Medicago.
"We're very close [...] we found someone who is willing to take back the assets and some of the people to turn that around and that's what we hope is going to happen," said Champagne.