WINNIPEG -- Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister has announced the province has agreed to purchase two million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine being developed by Providence Therapeutics, a company based in Alberta.

The announcement was made Thursday at the Manitoba Legislative Building.

“We must take every possible step to ensure that Manitobans and Canadians get the vaccines they need,” the premier said. “We have learned the hard way that we cannot rely on only one source of supply, and that supply is somewhere outside of Canada.”

As part of the agreement, Pallister said Manitoba will receive the first 200,000 doses of the vaccine as soon as it is approved.

The first clinical trials of the vaccine are underway, with a second round of trials expected to take place in the spring. The vaccine is an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine, which is similar to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines currently approved for use in Canada.

A news release from the province says approval of the vaccine by Health Canada is expected later this year, with Pallister saying they’re hoping for approval “as early as this fall.”

Pallister said the vaccine is most similar to the Moderna vaccine with regards to storage requirements.

In a statement, the CEO for Providence Therapeutics praised the announcement.

"We welcome the initiative demonstrated by the Manitoba government as this means that we are now on course to manufacture and deliver a COVID-19 vaccine in Canada in 2021," said Brad Sorenson, CEO of Providence Therapeutics, in a statement.

"We are looking forward to engagement with other provinces and the federal government in the near future so that we can produce vaccines for more Canadians across the country.”

The province said the drug product manufacturing and filling of vials with the vaccine will be done by Emergent BioSolutions at the manufacturing facility in Winnipeg.

“We’re taking a big step, but it’s a much-needed step, to creating a secure, stable supply of Canadian-made COVID vaccines,” Pallister said, adding he is encouraging both the federal government and other premiers to find similar solutions.

During the news conference, Pallister criticized the federal government for the COVID-19 vaccine rollout and the delays in getting vaccines to provinces. The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine has seen shipment delays due to construction at its European manufacturing facility.

“The U.S., with its previous president, said ‘America First,’ and its present president says the same thing, when it comes to vaccines and other things,” he said. “European and Asian countries are expecting that they’ll have home-field advantage as well, and meanwhile, here in Canada, we wait.”

While he is grateful for the doses that the federal government has presently been able to procure, the premier said his concern is over the delays in administering vaccines to Manitobans due to the slower supply.

“The approach they have taken means that when it comes to getting vaccinated against COVID, Canada First is in danger of becoming Canada Last,” Pallister said.

Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew said it was a “positive development” to see the provincial government be proactive during the pandemic.

“While the vaccine that was purchased today won’t be approved for some time, once it does get approved, I can see this potentially being a help to Manitobans,” he said. 

Kinew added there is a lot that can be done now to help Manitobans now, including increasing investments into the Cadham Provincial Laboratory.