Coronavirus outbreak: Health Canada approves first clinical trial for possible coronavirus vaccine

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the first Canadian clinical trials of a potential COVID-19 vaccine have b​​een approved by Health Canada, and will be conducted out of the Canadian Centre for Vaccinology at Dalhousie University.

Speaking from Rideau Cottage on Saturday, he said the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) will be working with the drug’s manufacturers in order to produce and distribute the vaccine “here at home” — if the trials are successful.

“Research and development take time and must be done right,” he said. “But this is encouraging news.”

The vaccine is called Ad5-nCoV and was approved for Phase 1 human trials in China on March 17.

In a statement to Global News, Health Canada said the vaccine candidate, developed by a Chinese research team called CanSino Biologics, was approved for trial on Friday.

“This is the first clinical trial application in Canada for a vaccine specifically designed to prevent COVID-19,” the statement read. “This decision followed careful review of the application, which Health Canada determined met the necessary requirements for safety and quality.”

Researchers in several other provinces have also joined the race for a COVID-19 vaccine.

On Thursday, Quebec biopharmaceutical company Medicago said in a press release they received “promising early results” from its COVID-19 test’s animal trials on mice.

NRC announced on Tuesday it would begin working with the University of Saskatchewan’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Centre to accelerate the production of a COVID-19 antigen vaccine candidate.

In Ontario, University of Waterloo researchers are working on a nasal spray vaccine.

Last week, Health Canada announced the first authorized use COVID-19 serological tests — better known as antibody tests — in Canada.

In a statement released Tuesday, the agency said at least one million Canadian blood samples would be collected and tested over the next two years as the Canadian government tracks the virus in the general population and in specific groups at greater risk of having been infected, including health-care workers and the elderly.

Chief public health officer Theresa Tam said serological tests will be rolled out as soon as quickly as possible.

“Hopefully this will be quite rapid in terms of its rollout, and we are participating with provinces and existing research networks that have already been formed to look at immunity, as well,” she said.

Even without a vaccine, some provinces have already begun taking steps towards reopening their economies.

In Ontario, for example, provincial parks reopened on Monday. By Tuesday, seasonal businesses and some retailers will reopen, provided they meet criteria laid out by the province and abide by physical-distancing protocols. Certain medical procedures will also get the green light.

In accordance with COVID-19 restrictions, retail stores, hair salons, daycares and day camps reopened on Thursday in Alberta, while cafes were allowed to reopen at half capacity.

In Quebec — the province hit hardest by COVID-19 — Premier Francois Legault has opted for a more staggered approach that would see various parts of the province reopen while others remain closed.

Trudeau also announced $100 million in federal funding for the Canadian Red Cross, which will be spent on the organization’s COVID-19 response, as well as natural disasters such as floods or wildfires.

“They’ve been playing a key role in supporting Canadians during this crisis, helping both individuals and communities with their most pressing needs,” he said.

“This contribution is a key investment that will enable the Red Cross to adapt to the challenges presented by COVID-19, as well as help to assist Canadians by equipping, recruiting and training people to be better prepared for events that occur during this pandemic and beyond.”


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