Canada has announced that it has signed deals with four U.S. companies to reserve millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccines under development in an effort to make sure Canadians are at “the front of the line” when a vaccine becomes available.
It also said it’s close to a deal with AstraZeneca, based in the United Kingdom.
All of the companies have received funding from the U.S. government’s Operation Warp Speed, which is investing billions of dollars to fast-track the development of promising vaccine candidates.
Canada will receive 20 million to 76 million doses of each vaccine, should any of them successfully make it through clinical trials and be approved by Health Canada.
WATCH | Canada gains access to 2 more potential COVID-19 vaccines:
They’re among more than 150 vaccine candidates under development around the world.
While they have shown promising results in small-scale, early-stage clinical trials, even those most advanced candidates have only recently begun Phase 3 clinical trials to determine their effectiveness in preventing COVID-19, and there is no guarantee any of them will make it to market. That’s the crucial large-scale human trial that must demonstrate that the vaccine prevents the disease, and it’s the final stage before approval by government.
“What we don’t know, of course, is which vaccines are going to be effective,” Dr. Michael Gardam, medical director of infection prevention and control at Toronto’s Women’s College Hospital, said in an interview with CBC’s As It Happens.
“We don’t know which company ultimately is going to have the best vaccine and the safest vaccine.”
Gardam said the deals represent different types of vaccine from four different manufacturers. The federal government, he said, is “just kind of playing the field … to make sure they have a reasonable chance that one of these will be successful.”
Here’s a closer look at the four candidates.
Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies (Johnson & Johnson)
Headquarters: Raritan, N.J., U.S.
Type: Non-replicating viral vector
Doses reserved: Up to 38 million
Phase of development: Phase 1/2a trial started in July
How it works: This vaccine, made by a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary, is a new type of vaccine called a non-replicating viral vector. Unlike traditional vaccines made from viruses or parts of viruses, this vaccine uses only a piece of coronavirus DNA. The DNA contains instructions for making a coronavirus protein so that the human body can produce it and learn to recognize it.
The protein targeted by most COVID-19 vaccines, including this one, is called the spike protein or S-protein. It’s found on the outer surface of coronaviruses and is used by the virus to bind to and enter human cells.
In this case, the DNA with instructions for making the spike protein is carried into the body by a common cold virus called an adenovirus. The adenovirus has been genetically modified so it can’t replicate itself in the human body. However, because it’s a virus, it may generate a stronger immune response than the DNA alone and helps get the DNA into human cells, where the spike protein can be produced. One disadvantage of this type of vaccine is that some people may have immunity to some adenoviruses from catching colds, which may make the vaccine less effective.
Viral vector vaccines haven’t been approved for widespread use in humans, but 12 are in use for diseases in livestock.
Where it’s at: The company reported in July that its vaccine protected monkeys against the virus after a single shot. The company started a human Phase 1/2a trial in July in Belgium and the U.S, and it announced this week it is starting a Phase 2 trial in Spain, the Netherlands and Germany. It says it will conduct Phase 3 trials in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Mexico.
WATCH | Federal government’s multiple COVID-19 vaccine deals win praise:
Headquarters: Cambridge, Mass., U.S.
Doses reserved: Up to 56 million
Phase of development: Phase 3 clinical trial started in July
How it works: Moderna’s vaccine candidate is made from messenger RNA, a type of genetic material. Messenger RNA, or mRNA, is used by cells to translate instructions found in DNA to make proteins. In this case, the instructions tell a human cell how to make a stabilized version of the spike protein for SARS-CoV2. That introduces the protein into the body so immune cells can learn to recognize it and produce antibodies against it.
The mRNA is encapsulated in a lipid nanoparticle for injection into the body. The LNP “container” protects it from being degraded by enzymes and helps it enter cells, Moderna says.
The mRNA itself also generates an immune response. While mRNA vaccines have been under development and widely tested for many years, none have ever been approved for widespread human use.
Where it’s at: Moderna launched the first Phase 3 clinical trial in the U.S. in July, and hopes to enrol 30,000 volunteers. The company reported in May that the vaccine produced protective antibodies in a small group of healthy volunteers, and the study showed the vaccine was safe. However, three people in an early-stage trial reportedly had severe or “systemic” adverse reactions, such as high fevers, to a high dose of the vaccine.
WATCH | Fast-tracking a COVID-19 vaccine is not without controversy:
Headquarters: Gaithersburg, Md., U.S.
Vaccine type: Protein subunit
Doses reserved: 76 million
Phase of development: Phase 1/2 clinical trial started in May
How it works: Novavax’s vaccine is the most traditional of the ones reserved by the federal government. The vaccine is made from nanoparticles of a key protein from the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. When the protein particles are injected into the body with an adjuvant — a compound that enhances the body’s immune response — the body learns to recognize and fight off the virus.
“That is a tried and true way of producing vaccines and of creating immunity,” Dr. Barry Pakes, a professor at the Centre for Vaccine Preventable Diseases at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health, told CBC News Network.
It’s similar to vaccines already on the market, such as the hepatitis B vaccine.
Novavax makes the protein by putting the genetic sequence for the protein into a virus that infects insect cells, causing them to make large quantities of protein. The protein has some small genetic modifications compared with the one found on the real virus to help it maintain a rigid shape and make it easier for the body to bind to and recognize.
Protein subunit vaccines don’t elicit as strong an immune response as whole virus vaccines, so they often include an adjuvant. Novavax uses a proprietary adjuvant called Matrix-M, which is based on a type of compound found in many plants called a saponin. The company says it boosts the body’s immune response and generates a bigger immune response with a lower dose.
Where it’s at: Novavax reports in a study preprint (not yet peer-reviewed) that in Phase 1 clinical trials, its protein and adjuvant stimulate high levels of neutralizing antibodies — higher than those in people who have had a natural infection — with few side effects. It’s currently running a combined Phase 1 and 2 trial.
Headquarters: New York, N.Y., U.S./Mainz, Germany
Doses reserved: At least 20 million
Phase of development: Phase 2/3 clinical trial started in July
How it works: Pfizer and BioNTech’s mRNA vaccine is quite similar to Moderna’s. It’s an mRNA sequence for a stabilized spike protein. Like Moderna’s vaccine, it’s delivered in a lipid nanoparticle container.
Where it’s at: Pfizer and BioNTech tested two different mRNA sequences for Phase 1. It reported in a study posted online that has not yet been peer-reviewed that both vaccines generated higher levels of neutralizing antibodies than found in the blood of someone who had had a natural COVID-19 infection. However, the spike protein sequence generated fewer side effects, especially in older adults, so that’s the focus of a combined Phase 2 and 3 trial.
5 things to know on CTVNews.ca for Friday, September 18, 2020: CRA cyberattacks, second shutdown, children's health – CTV News
Canada has surpassed 140,000 total cases of COVID-19, with 9,200 associated deaths. Here’s what else you need to know to start your day.
1. CRA cyberattacks: In a major update on a series of credential-stuffing attacks on government websites including the Canada Revenue Agency, the country’s top information officer now says that “suspicious activities” have been found on 48,500 CRA user accounts.
2. Second shutdown: As COVID-19 cases begin to rise again, Canadian politicians and health officials are warning that parts of the country may soon enter a second shutdown. But experts say it won’t look like Canada’s first go-round back in March.
3. Children’s health: Parents and children’s health advocates worry that the thousands of delayed or cancelled pediatric procedures due to COVID-19 will have a permanent impact on Canadian children.
4. New COVID-19 test: B.C.’s top health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced Thursday researchers have developed a new method of testing that’s non-invasive and can be done without the assistance of a health care professional.
5. Four eyes: Researchers in China have observed a curious link in one of the more specific COVID-19 studies to come out of this pandemic: hospitalized coronavirus patients were less likely to wear glasses than the average population.
One more thing…
Extreme weather: A new satellite image from NASA shows the West Coast of the U.S. and parts of Canada covered in smoke from growing wildfires while Hurricane Sally makes landfall in the Gulf Coast and several other hurricanes converge in the Atlantic Ocean.
At the open: TSX jumps on strong retail sales data – The Globe and Mail
Canada’s main stock index rose on Friday as data showing a rise in retail sales and an uptick in house prices helped offset fears of prolonged economic recovery as coronavirus cases rise globally.
At 9:33 a.m. ET, the Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index was up 51.34 points, or 0.32%, at 16,298.06.
Canadian retail sales in July rose by 0.6% and are now higher than they were before the coronavirus pandemic struck, Statistics Canada said on Friday, adding that August sales probably gained 1.1% on the month.
Analysts in a Reuters poll had forecast retail sales would increase by 1.0% from June, when trade jumped by 22.7% as restrictions imposed to fight the outbreak were removed.
“The data continue to suggest that the pace of growth seen in June wasn’t sustained early in the third quarter,” said Royce Mendes of CIBC Economics.
Sales grew in six of the 11 subsectors, with motor vehicles and parts contributing the most. Gas sales also posted gains.
The Nasdaq rose at the open on Friday, shaking off a two-day decline in heavyweight technology stocks, while worries about rising coronavirus cases and a patchy economic recovery weighed on the S&P 500 and Dow.
The Nasdaq Composite gained 63.17 points, or 0.58%, to 10,973.45 at the opening bell. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 37.11 points, or 0.13%, at the open to 27,864.87, while the S&P 500 opened higher by just 0.37 points, or flat, at 3,357.38.
Wall Street’s three main indexes bounced earlier this week as investors bet on a loose monetary policy by the Federal Reserve, but gains petered out in the absence of firm details on the central bank’s stimulus plan.
The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq have also come under pressure from investors rotating out of high-flying tech-related stocks and into industrial and transportation firms.
“The market’s in a vacuum right now,” said Thomas Hayes, managing member at Great Hill Capital LLC in New York.
“Anytime you have news or perception that things are going to be delayed or (you have a) slow growth economy, those (technology-related) stocks get bid. You’ll get these technical bounce days when coronavirus cases spike up and money will move back into tech.”
Oil prices were mixed on Friday after Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar said a blockade on Libyan oil exports would be lifted for one month, countering more bullish signals from an OPEC meeting on Thursday.
Brent crude was down 17 cents at $43.13 a barrel by 1321 GMT while U.S. oil futures ticked up 6 cents to $41.03.
The benchmarks were still set for weekly gains after Hurricane Sally cut U.S. production, Saudi Arabia pressed allies to stick to production quotas and banks including Goldman Sachs predicted a supply deficit.
Pre-blockade Libya was producing around 1.2 million bpd, compared with just over 100,000 bpd now. It is unclear how quickly Libya could ramp up production.
Earlier, Goldman Sachs predicted a market deficit of 3 million barrels per day (bpd) by the fourth quarter and reiterated its target for Brent to reach $49 by the end of the year and $65 by the third quarter of 2021.
Swiss bank UBS also pointed to the possibility of undersupply, forecasting Brent would rise to $45 a barrel in the fourth quarter and to $55 by mid-2021.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and other producers, a group known as OPEC+, are cutting output by 7.7 million bpd and stressed at a meeting on Thursday that it would take action against members not complying with the deal.
“We think (OPEC+) will put on hold plans to taper the cut down to 5.8 million bpd … when the entire group convenes again in December,” RBC analysts said.
Saudi Arabia said an earlier meeting was possible if oil prices fell alongside demand because of a second wave of coronavirus cases.
“The market now feels the ground more stable to maintain $40+ price levels,” said Rystad’s Head of Oil Markets Bjornar Tonhaugen.
Suspicious activity found on 48,000 CRA accounts after cyberattacks: treasury board – CBC.ca
The Treasury Board of Canada says it has uncovered suspicious activities on more than 48,000 Canada Revenue Agency accounts following cyberattacks in July and August.
The treasury says the previously announced attacks targeted CRA accounts and GCKey, an online portal through which Canadians access employment insurance and immigration services.
Attackers used a method called credential stuffing, which takes advantage of people who reuse usernames and passwords across multiple platforms that may have been previously hacked.
The treasury says GCKey was not compromised, but it has revoked 9,300 credentials for its system and is contacting those users in hopes of blocking subsequent attacks.
Canadians who receive a revocation message can register for new credentials or make use of the SecureKey Concierge, which lets users sign in to 269 government services through partners, such as major banks.
The treasury says the RCMP’s investigation into the attacks is still ongoing and affected departments have been in contact with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner to provide updates on what personal information has been compromised.
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