TORONTO -- Canada needs to build up its manufacturing capacity for both vaccines and personal protective equipment (PPE) if it wants to be prepared for the next pandemic, says former Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney.

“We, like many other countries, thought we could buy our PPE from abroad, ultimately buy vaccines from abroad in a timely way. That just hasn't been the case for either, and we're suffering as a consequence,” Carney said on CTV’s Your Morning on Wednesday.

“We need to think about all of the essential items on which we can't rely on international markets for,” he added.

Despite Canada having signed contracts for more than enough vaccines to inoculate its entire population, early deliveries were slowed by factors including production issues at Pfizer and Moderna’s European facilities. As of Tuesday, Canada had administered at least one vaccine dose to about 7 per cent of the population, which lags behind the doses given to more than 20 per cent in the United States.

Canada inked a deal with Novavax February for the company to begin producing COVID-19 vaccines at a plant in Montreal, potentially starting later this year, and the federal government has also agreed to invest millions in several domestic developers. One of those, Quebec City-based Medicago, said on Tuesday it is moving forward with late stage clinical trials of its vaccine candidate.

But Carney warned it can be easy to forget the lessons learned from situations such as the pandemic.

“Memories are short,” he said. “It's hard to imagine when you're in the teeth of the crisis that you will forget how difficult it is. But the important thing is what is Canada doing 20 years from now, 25 years from now, to prepare for these types of situations.”

Carney, who has also served as Governor of the Bank of England and was named the United Nations Special Envoy for Climate Action and Finance in 2019, said it will be important to refocus on issues such as climate change and plastics waste once the pandemic winds down and the need for plastic PPE becomes less urgent. 

“We're in a health-care crisis, there are limited tools at our disposal we have to protect each other. We have to use these various plastic materials in order to do so, it's entirely right,” he said.

At the same time, he said it’s important to think ahead about government investments that will allow economies to transition away from waste and towards greener solutions, such as establishing a fully renewable electricity grid.

“What is happening now as there's this sort of pivot,” he said. “Continue to support Canadians, until we get vaccinated, until we get out, but then really focus on the types of investments we need.”