Volume 27

Volume 27 -Surety of Vaccine Supply

2021 Defence and Security Economics Workshop 28-29 October 2021 | CDA Institute Sponsored Panel: Surety of Vaccine Supply


Carleton University annually hosts the Defence and Security Economics Workshop, bringing together participants from universities, think tanks and research agencies across Canada and around the world. The Workshop, running since 2006, aims to provide a forum for the discussion of a broad range of theoretical and applied issues in defence and security from an economic analysis perspective. The 2021 Workshop was organized as a virtual event in recognition of the ongoing public health restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The CDA Institute has been a Workshop partner for a number of years, sponsoring panel discussions on a range of topics aimed at encouraging a dialogue across a diverse range of disciplines to foster, encourage and support a wider national conversation about issues related to defence, security and the Canadian economy with a view to:

  • Improving understanding of the scope, scale, and complexity of the symbiotic relationship between Canada’s economy and its defence and security;
  • Developing a clearer and more comprehensive understanding of the “as-is” condition of the defence and security industrial sector in Canada, including supporting and enabling government policies, programs, and plans; and
  • Identifying and exploring issues that should influence and shape the future evolution of Canada’s defence and security industries, both in terms of meeting the country’s strategic defence and security needs and enhancing the sector’s contribution to the wider economy.

The COVID 19 pandemic has highlighted the important reality that national security must be approached as a holistic concept extending well beyond traditional areas like defence, intelligence, diplomacy, and foreign aid. Non-traditional threats like disease and climate change can be no less damaging to the nation but require different kinds of responses from government and industry, and in recognition of this the 2021 panel focused on the issue of Vaccine supply.

2021 CDA Institute Sponsored Panel Discussion on Surety of Vaccine Supply

The Government of Canada responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by purchasing vaccines from many international suppliers and, while there was some disruption to early deliveries, this strategy has been successful – at least this time. However, the threat of pandemic disease will not disappear after COVID-19 and in support of the ongoing public discussion on whether Canada should establish a domestic capability to develop and produce its own vaccines, the 2021 panel was designed to undertake a broad exploration and scoping of relevant issues.

The panel was structured in two parts: Part 1 was the main session focusing on issues and challenges associated with creating a national program to assure vaccine supply; and Part 2 looked at potential lessons that could be drawn from existing government-industry assured supply programs in Canada and elsewhere.

This Special Edition of On Track

The panelists have summarized the information and insights provided in their presentations in the six articles presented in this special edition of On Track. The very clear message from Part 1 of the panel discussion and the first four articles presented here is that any national vaccine supply program must be designed for agile, flexible and adaptable response. As both Dr Van Exan and Professor Grootendorst warn in their articles, the science of vaccines and the production technologies are continuously evolving, and a very high pace. Even in the short time between the panel discussion and publication of this edition, remarkable advances in both areas have been made both in Canada and globally. Ms Nye’s article clearly shows the need for government to be able to set aside its traditional linear procurement processes when necessary, and adopt more rapidly responsive approaches – while still exercising reasonable prudence and probity in the expenditure of public funds. Brigadier-General Brodie paints a remarkable picture of “on-the-fly” innovation and rapid collaborative invention of a broadly integrated national vaccine delivery system that has been, by any measure, stunningly successful. Her caution not to let the valuable fruits of this great achievement go to waste is a sobering challenge for government and Parliament.

The Part 2 presentations and the last two articles here offer a range of insights drawn from existing assured supply programs in Canada and elsewhere. These tend to be defence-related and mostly focused on munitions, so the technologies and industrial capabilities involved are different from vaccines, but nevertheless provide potentially useful perspectives. Professor Berkok provides a broad overview of the challenges faced in designing an assured vaccine supply program and outlines several different models that could be applied to it that have been adopted by different nations for particular defence requirements. Colonel Davies looks specifically at Canada’s Munitions Supply Program to offer lessons from it that could apply to a vaccine program.

Given the complex and fluid nature of the threat posed by pandemic disease, development of a national program for assuring future vaccine supply will be difficult to say the least, so the problem requires much deep analysis and thought. We hope readers will find this collection of articles a useful contribution to the national discussion about how Canada should assure its national security in the face of future pandemics.

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