Canadian health officials have approved a plant-based COVID-19 vaccine, the first of its kind.
Covifenz, developed as a joint venture between Canada’s Medicago and Britain’s GlaxoSmithKline, uses plant material to mimic the spike protein of a virus after being injected into the human body.
The vaccine received Canadian regulatory approval for use in residents aged 18 to 64 on Thursday.
It showed a 71 percent effectiveness in preventing Covid infections before Omicron, although trials were conducted before the variant became available late last year, meaning there is still no data on how effective the shot is against the dominant strain.
How much of a role this vaccine will play in the country’s future vaccine rollout is unknown, as Canada already has access to Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, among others.
Canadian company Medicago has received approval for its plant-based COVID-19 vaccine Covifenz in its country. This is the first plant-based vaccine to be approved to fight Covid anywhere in the world (file photo)
The vaccine works by using plant particles to mimic the spike protein of the virus, similar to how an mRNA vaccine uses its technology (file photo)
“The approval of our COVID-19 vaccine is a significant milestone for Canada in the fight against the pandemic,” said Takashi Nagao, president of Medicago.
The vaccine is a two-dose shot that is “refrigerator stable,” meaning it doesn’t require the ultra-cold storage that Moderna and Pfizer shots require for transport.
Phase 3 vaccine trials included 24,000 adults in six countries. Not enough data was collected for the over 65 age group for regulators to make a decision.
The jab works using plant-derived particles that can create an artificial protein in the body.
When the immune system ejects this protein, it creates antibodies to fight the virus. mRNA vaccines work the same way.
National health officials are touting the vaccine as a way to get back into biotech for Canada, a country they say has fallen behind.
“As one of our government’s top priorities has been to reverse the 40-year decline faced by Canada’s biosector, we are pleased to see the approval of the Medicago vaccine,” Canadian MP François-Philippe Champagne said in a statement.
“This is an important milestone for Canada’s biotechnology sector and domestic innovation.”
However, there are still questions to be answered about a strike in the future, especially because other countries will not so readily approve of a strike out of a sense of national pride.
The vaccine is effective against the Delta variant and other previous strains of Covid, but many of these have all but disappeared in recent months.
Omicron is the most contagious version of Covid, and combined with its even more contagious BA.2 lineage, other strains of the virus have been forgotten.
It is also the most mutated strain, and is so different from other versions of Covid that it can evade the protection provided by vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and others created for older strains of the virus.
While booster doses have proven effective in increasing the protection of other vaccines, Covifenz does not yet have an approved booster.
The shot will also have some competition. May be the most effective and longest lasting protein injection, Novavax has begun its global rollout and is likely to be available in America soon as well.
Glaxo also has a protein-based vaccine, a joint venture with French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi, seeking approval from US officials.
Both vaccines have been shown to be effective against Omicron in laboratory tests, and the protein-based vaccines can also be stored at refrigerator temperature, eliminating the potential benefit that the Canadian vaccine may have.
Canada also already has five other approved vaccines, and they have procurement contracts with Pfizer and Moderna to buy Covid vaccines and boosters from the companies until at least next year.