Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada’s National Research Council-owned Royalmount facility will produce millions of Covid-19 vaccine shots developed by Maryland-based Novavax.

The Canadian company in Montreal submitted its vaccine to Health Canada for regulatory approval last Friday. Its production is expected to start in the fall this year as the global market is contending with delivery delays and protectionist measures, Xinhua news agency reported on Tuesday.

“This is a major step forward to get vaccines made in Canada, for Canadians. We need as much domestic capacity for vaccine production as possible,” Trudeau said at a press conference in Ottawa. “We won’t rest until every Canadian who wants a vaccine has received one.”

Last summer, Trudeau announced more than 125 million Canadian dollars (US $97.7 million) to upgrade the National Research Council facility to produce vaccines domestically and avoid the global scramble for shots.

Trudeau pointed that more contagious Covid-19 variants now taking hold in Canada mean tough rules must be implemented in the next few weeks. “These new variants out there are of real concern.”

Canadian Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam said on Tuesday at least 148 cases of the variants that first emerged in Britain and South Africa have been confirmed across the country, although overall counts of new Covid-19 cases continue to decline.

The four cases of the South African variant that were confirmed in British Columbia province and the one case reported in Ontario province have no known link to international travel, raising fears of community spread.

“I think there are definitely signs that the variants are certainly transmitted to a certain extent in communities, and we are not detecting them all,” Tam said. “We need to be very vigilant and very cautious about relaxation of those public health measures.”

Over the past seven days, an average of 4,368 new Covid-19 cases have been reported daily across Canada, a nearly 50 per cent drop from three weeks ago, Tam said.

Hospitalizations are also on the decline, falling 12 per cent over the past week to fewer than 3,900 patients in care. Fatal cases have fallen by 20 percent to 128 deaths per day.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Canada reported a cumulative total of 785,494 cases and 20,186 deaths, according to CTV.