In order to avoid being caught off guard, Canada has increased orders for COVID-19 vaccines in recent months by pledging to spend more than $ 1 billion, but with no guarantee of success.
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Six conditional agreements were signed by Ottawa with major global manufacturers to reserve up to 282 million doses from them. These are vaccine candidates, none of which have yet been approved by regulatory authorities.
“At this point, no one knows which vaccine will work. We must therefore have several options available ”, had also underlined the federal Minister of Public Services and Procurement, Anita Anand, at the end of last August.
“Our strategy,” she added, “is to enter into agreements with several developers of vaccine candidates so that Canadians are in a good position while clinical trials progress. “
The total amount of these orders was revealed, more than $ 1 billion, but Ottawa did not want to reveal the details of each of the agreements or the conditions regarding the money that will be paid.
Among the most advanced agreements reached are clinical trials by European manufacturer AstraZeneca, associated with the University of Oxford. The company is thus the first to have submitted an application for approval for a vaccine against COVID-19 with Health Canada.
AstraZeneca’s vaccine is being tested extensively around the world. It has been administered to 18,000 people in the UK, Brazil, India and South Africa in phase 3 trials.
The company still hopes to develop an effective vaccine by the end of the year.
However, the trials were stopped in early September due to adverse side effects in a volunteer from the United Kingdom. Testing has since resumed.
Canada’s six picks have received little criticism so far. With the exception of those rather sharp ones from microbiologist Gary Kobinger, professor and director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research at Laval University.
Reached by phone, Professor Kobinger, a Canadian leading authority on vaccines to whom we owe the vaccine against the Ebola virus, was unable to grant us an interview due to an excessively busy schedule. However, Le Devoir recently reported that Mr. Kobinger believes that the vaccine candidates selected by Ottawa are not sufficiently diverse.
The professor deplores the choice of vaccines that use RNA particles, such as those from Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer, a new technology that has not yet been proven. In his opinion, more proven technologies should have been used.
Another point: Mr. Kobinger resigned with resignation in early September from the working group of which he was part and which had been set up by Ottawa to recommend the choice of candidate vaccines. In addition to disagreeing with the group’s conclusions, he believes that the experts lacked transparency in their work, among other things because the potential conflicts of interest of each member were not made public.
Up to 282 million doses
Up to 20 million doses
With the University of Oxford, the Anglo-Swedish giant is carrying out accelerated trials in phases 2 and 3 in several countries. Convincing results have been recorded.
Protein subunit vaccine
Up to 72 million doses
The two companies rely on sophisticated technology using insect cells. The vaccine could be ready in mid-2021.
Up to 38 million doses
The American company also obtained an order for 100 million doses from Washington. This technology has not yet been proven.
Viral protein nanoparticle vaccine
Up to 76 million doses
An American company specializing in the sector, it is developing a very promising influenza vaccine using the same technology.
Up to 20 million doses
Developed in association with German and Chinese companies, this vaccine has the particularity of being administered in two doses 28 days apart.
Up to 56 million doses
Moderna has distinguished itself by being the very first company in the world to launch clinical trials with a vaccine against COVID-19.
Nearly 200 ongoing research projects around the world
- No less than 193 teams are currently active around the world to develop a vaccine against COVID-19.
- Of these, forty are in the stages of trials on human volunteers, according to the most recent compilation of the WHO.
- In China and Russia, teams have entered into inoculation mode with the population in the case of five candidate vaccines. However, these decisions to proceed have been widely criticized.
- In total, 11 teams are at the crucial stage of phase 3 of clinical trials (just before approval), which involves carrying out very large-scale tests on tens of thousands of volunteers.
- The research effort is unprecedented in human history. “What we are experiencing at the scientific level at the moment is absolutely extraordinary, because there are several new platforms that will be tested”, underlined this week on QUB radio the Dr Denis Leclerc, microbiologist and professor at the Faculty of Medicine at Laval University.