Health Canada has approved the first clinic trial of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Saturday (May 16).
The efforts are being led by the Canadian Centre for Vaccinology at Dalhousie University alongside the National Research Council of Canada.
If the trial is to be successful, Trudeau told reporters from outside his home at Rideau Cottage that “we can produce and distribute it here at home.”
Trudeau noted that research and development of a vaccine takes time but called the news “encouraging.”
The purpose of a vaccine is to give the body’s immune system a portion of the virus so it can produce antibodies exactly like it would if exposed to the disease. The World Health Organization and others have warned that a vaccine for the novel coronavirus could take years to create.
In the meantime, COVID-19 has done its share of damage in Canada in recent months, forcing thousands out of work, sparking bans and restrictions on public outings and a temporary closure of the country’s borders.
The federal government has provided $275 million in funding for vaccine and antiviral development and clinical trials globally, including $27 million across 47 teams of scientists researching the novel coronavirus.
Trudeau has said in the past that working to create a vaccine on home soil would ensure Canadians are the first to receive it.
“There are obviously going to be extremely important decisions around how to best get to that level of vaccination that will prevent further spread of COVID-19,” Trudeau said in late April, when asked whether government would pass legislation making a vaccine mandatory.
“There’s a lot of studies done on that over the past years in terms of what threshold of the population needs to vaccinated in order to prevent any spread of a disease and that research will obviously inform decisions we take around the COVID-19 vaccine when it comes.”