Canada approves second vaccine made without mRNA technology

Canada’s drug regulator has approved a plant-based coronavirus vaccine that could be an acceptable alternative for people who are concerned, despite evidence to the contrary, about the safety of the mRNA technology behind vaccines like those made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

Regulator Health Canada said trials had shown the two-dose Covifenz vaccine, developed by Quebec-based Medicago, was 71 percent effective against infection. The approval only covers people between the ages of 18 and 64.

This is the second non-mRNA vaccine authorized for use in Canada. Last week, Health Canada approved a protein-based vaccine developed by Novavax, a Maryland-based company. A scientific advisory group which makes vaccine recommendations to the government has said the Novavax option could be used for people who “do not wish to receive a Covid-19 mRNA vaccine”.

On Thursday, Dr Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, said that to date the group had preferred mRNA vaccines because of their efficacy and “also because of the well-established safety profile. known”. The panel will offer its advice on the Medicago vaccine in about two weeks.

Canada has now approved six vaccines, although not all of them are currently available.

Last year, the government agreed to purchase 76 million doses of the Medicago vaccine, which is not expected to arrive in Canada until May. Because 82% of Canadians over the age of 5 are already fully immunized, according to a New York Times database, officials said this week that many of the doses would likely be sent to other countries.

The Medicago vaccine is based on proteins that resemble the coronavirus for the immune system. These proteins are produced in a plant closely related to tobacco. The efficacy of the vaccine is increased with an adjuvant manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline.

At the start of the pandemic, Canada did not have a pharmaceutical company capable of producing a Covid vaccine, which led to initial supply delays. To help address this problem, the government has supported development efforts by Medicago, which is owned by Japan’s Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma and Philip Morris International, the New York-based tobacco company. Novavax has also agreed to manufacture its vaccine at an expanding government-owned factory in Montreal.

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