This weekend the government announced that the government agency Health Canada has approved clinical trials of a possible vaccine.
The trials will take place at the Canadian Centre for Vaccinology (CCIV) which is located in Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia.
That lab was instrumental in a Canada-U.S. cooperative effort that led to a vaccine to stop the ebola epidemic.
There have been over 30 approvals by Health Canada for supportive care treatements for COVID-19 so far, but this will be the first towards creation of a vaccine in Canada. The lab will do follow on work with the Chinese manufacturer CanSino Biologies which itself has begun clinical trials. Further collaboration will be taking place with Canada’s National Research Council so that if the vaccine is successful, production can begin here in Canada.
The strain of virus used in the vaccine is called Ad5-nCoV, a similar virus to SARS-CoV2 the pandemic virus, but modified to not cause an infection in humans. He does however have one of the so-called “spike protiens” that enables the pandemic virus to latch on to cells.
If patients develop antibodies to fight the vaccine virus, it is hoped they would be able to fight the SARS-CoV2 virus.
Phase-1 of the trials will involve fewer than 100 healthy people between the ages of 18 and 55 who will be given doses of the vaccine. They will then be followed for the next six months through several blood tests to check immune response to the vaccine. They will also record in a diary any reaction symptoms they notice.
An early safe immune response could lead to Phase-2 beginning before the first phase is complete. This would involve a much larger group, with varied ages including up to age 85 and administered by a number of centres across the country.
With positive results from that, Phase 3 could begin by late summer or early fall. This would involve testing vaccine recipients against the actual virus.
Vaccines are classed as biological drugs as they are developed from living organisms as opposed to chemical drugs which have fewer variables hence the typically longer trial period.
Usually such trials and eventual approval can take from five to seven years, but that could be expedited if it was deemed by the government to be an emergency.
Latest figures from Canada show almost 77,000 cases of COVID-19 have been reported, with almost 5,800 deaths but over 38,400 recoveries.
additional information – sources
- CBC:H.Ryan:May 16/20: Canada’s first COVID-19 vaccine trials approved for Halifax university
- Canadian Press (via TorStar): K.Doucette: May 17/20: Halifax lab team to conduct first Canadian trials for possible COVID-19 vaccine
- CTV: N.Bogart: May 16/20: Health Canada approves first clinical trial for potential COVID-19 vaccine
- CTV: R Flanagan: May 17/20: How the first Canadian COVID-19 vaccine trial will work