Coronavirus Canada Updates: A closer look at Canada’s homegrown COVID-19 vaccine candidates

Quebec reports more than 900 new COVID-19 cases, five more deaths
Quebec reports more than 900 new COVID-19 cases, five more deaths

Scientists across Canada are using a range of technologies to produce immunity against SARS-CoV-2.

More than 100 groups around the world are racing to produce a vaccine against COVID-19, with most of the attention focused on front-runners currently in Phase 3 clinical trials in the U.S. and overseas.

But Canada has also invested in some COVID-19 vaccines in development here, and there are more than half a dozen Canadian vaccine candidates registered with the World Health Organization, at least one of which is already being tested on humans. They represent a wide range of technologies, from more traditional protein subunit vaccines to newer technologies such as replicating viral vector and DNA vaccines. The options, if approved, would include both needles and a nasal spray.

Dr. Volker Gerdts, director and CEO of the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Centre at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, argues that “it’s very important … to be self-sufficient and have access to vaccines that are being produced here in Canada for Canadians.”

He and other advocates say that will give Canadians more control over when and how vaccines become available here.

The federal government recently invested $1 billion dollars in preorders for six foreign vaccine candidates, even though there’s no guarantee that any of them will ever make it through clinical trials to market.

But some Canadian vaccine developers have reported facing big hurdles in development, including not enough government support. Gerdts said lack of manufacturing capacity in Canada slowed efforts earlier this summer.

Michael Houghton, who is leading a vaccine development team at the University of Alberta, said lack of funding to manufacture vaccines for a clinical trial has set his team back. Providence Therapeutics, a Toronto-based company whose mRNA vaccine is not listed with the WHO, has complained about a lack of government support for clinical trials. However, some teams, such as Halifax-based IMV and Edmonton-based Entos, have announced getting federal government funding to proceed with trials.

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