(Adds comment from Alberta premier)
By Rod Nickel
WINNIPEG, Manitoba, Feb 11 (Reuters) - The Canadian provinceof Manitoba said on Thursday it will buy 2 million doses of aCOVID-19 vaccine candidate now in early trials, bypassing thenational government.
The province's government has agreed to buy the doses fromAlberta-based Providence Therapeutics, Premier Brian Pallistersaid. The company is developing a candidate similar to thoseproduced by Pfizer Inc and Moderna Inc.
The premier of Alberta also said his government is pursuingvaccine supplies because of delays in the federal governmentprocuring doses internationally.
If approved by the regulator, Health Canada, Providencewould supply Manitoba with its first 200,000 doses next year.Pallister did not release financial terms.
Health Canada officials could not be immediately reached forcomment.
In total, Manitoba will buy 2 million doses for the provinceof 1.4 million people. Emergent BioSolutions would manufacturethe doses and fill vials at its plant in Winnipeg.
Pallister, a Progressive Conservative, has been critical ofLiberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for not deliveringvaccines fast enough.
Canada's rate of vaccination lags far behind rates percapita in the United States, the United Kingdom and othercountries, but the number of new infections is dropping sharplyamid widespread health restrictions.
"Canada first is in danger of becoming Canada last,"Pallister said. "I just want a Canadian home field advantage forus."
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said he has spoken to thepresident of Providence Therapeutics and contacted otherpremiers to establish an inter-provincial task force on vaccinesupply.
Kenney said at a news conference that Providence told himthe company would need a C$150 million order representing 50million doses to be able to establish a domestic productionfacility in Canada.
The Canadian government has signed all procurement deals forvaccines so far - more per capita than any other country - butthey are all made outside Canada and only Pfizer and Modernahave regulatory approval. The provinces are in charge ofadministering vaccines.
Last week, Canada signed its first deal to allow a foreigncoronavirus vaccine, developed by Novavax Inc, to bemanufactured domestically.
(Reporting by Rod Nickel; Additional reporting by Steve Schererin Ottawa and Nia Williams in Calgary; Editing by Chizu Nomiyamaand Grant McCool)