Providence Therapeutics is expecting their COVID-19 vaccine will become the best one on the market when it begins to roll out in Manitoba this coming July.

Last week, the provincial government announced plans to purchase two million doses from the Calgary-based company and CEO Brad Sorenson says he has a lot of confidence in the made-in-Canada immunization. As he explains, Providence Therapeutics’ take on the vaccine is very similar to those already being used across the nation.

“We deliver a message to the cells in the body to produce a spike protein, the body does that, the immune system then recognizes that it is not supposed to be there and mounts an immune response,” he describes. “We’re not telling the body to make a virus inside of it we’re just making a single protein that the immune system gets rid of and then that antibody response is still there if somebody does get infected with the coronavirus that has that protein.”

Like Moderna and Pfizer, the other two Canada-approved drugs, Sorenson says his company’s product is an mRNA vaccine with a 95 per cent effectiveness rate that requires two separate shots for best results. Similar to Moderna, the Providence vaccine will be stored at -20. There is, however, one projected dissimilarity.

“We actually expect we will have a lower side-effects profile,” he states. “We believe we are going to be best in class, that we will be as good as them but we will have a better safety profile.”
Meanwhile, Sorenson says producing the drug within Canada offers several more advantages.

“The key benefit is that we don’t have to import it and so we don’t have to sit and hold our breath wondering if some company outside of our borders is going to consider us worthy to receive a shipment or not," he says. “Our people will have a security of supply.”

He adds local production also means a quicker response time if the COVID-19 variants become significant problems.

Providence Therapeutics will be manufacturing their vaccines at Emergent BioSolutions in Winnipeg. They have been contracted by Premier Brian Pallister’s government to produce doses for every Manitoban. When operations are running smoothly this summer, Sorenson says they will be able to create up to half a million vaccines every day.

“Now Manitoba does not need that many,” he clarifies, "they only need two million."

Nevertheless, Sorenson anticipates their drug will be requested by other provinces and potentially other countries and wants to be able to support that demand. So far, Manitoba is the only region that has asked for the vaccine, but the CEO expects others will be signing on early next week… and they will have to if they want to take part in the action.

“It’s not like going through the McDonald’s drive-thru where you can change your order and say ‘I don’t want a cheeseburger, give me a chicken sandwich instead,” he remarks. “We need to know how many vaccines are expected from us because we have to purchase all of the raw materials, we have to book the plant time, there is a lot that goes into this and those decisions have to be made months in advance.”

Sorenson is thrilled that all Manitobans who so desire will be able to be vaccinated for the COVID-19 virus within the year 2021, however, if other provinces delay their own orders, he says that same opportunity for them could still be a year away.