HALIFAX — The first Canadian clinical trials for a possible COVID-19 vaccine will be conducted by a Halifax research team that also was involved in trials that eventually led to a vaccine for the Ebola virus.
Health Canada has approved trials that will be conducted at the Canadian Centre for Vaccinology at Dalhousie University.
The centre’s director, Dr. Scott Halperin, says the lab was one of several in Canada and the U.S. whose work starting in 2014 eventually saw an “emergency release” of an Ebola vaccine that was used in West Africa before a third phase of clinical trials had been completed.
Halperin said each lab did slightly different studies in order to get the right type of information before quickly moving to the second phase and then the third.
“The Phase 1 studies were done and within six months the data were available and the phase three studies were started in West Africa which then helped to actually stop the epidemic,” he said in an interview.
Halperin said it’s possible the same emergency release could happen in Canada with a potential COVID-19 vaccine if it shows potential and is deemed safe, expediting a process that usually takes a number of years to complete — anywhere from five to seven years under normal circumstances.
“That would be something that Health Canada and the Canadian government would have to decide whether they wanted to do that. But it is certainly one of the options in the tool kit of things they can do to expedite the process if this or any other vaccine is looking promising.”
Halperin pointed out that despite its early use during testing, the Ebola vaccine wasn’t actually licensed as a regular marketed vaccine until late last year.
However, he cautions there’s much work to be done before a COVID-19 vaccine could be approved for use.
The Halifax researchers will be following up work by Chinese manufacturer CanSino Biologics, which is already conducting human clinical trials for the vaccine.
Halperin said the first phase trial should be underway within the next three weeks once final approval is given by the centre’s research ethics board.
Phase 1 will involve fewer than 100 healthy volunteers between the ages of 18 and 55 who will be followed over the next six months.
“We want to make sure that the vaccine is safe first in younger individuals before we go into people who may be at higher risk,” Halperin said.
The participants are given a dose of the vaccine and are clinically monitored through a series of blood tests. They are also asked to record their symptoms in a diary so the researchers can have even more information.
“We collect any type of symptoms they might have whether they think it’s related to the vaccine or not,” said Halperin.
Each participant will make between nine and 13 visits to the centre during the first phase of the study.
If the initial test group shows a safe immune response to the vaccine, Halperin said researchers will quickly transition into an expanded second phase study before the first phase is even completed.
That would involve hundreds of people of all ages, including those aged 65 to 85, and would be administered by several other research centres across the country that are part of the Canadian Immunization Research Network.
Halperin said the network was set up by the federal government in 2009 as part of the response to the H1N1 pandemic. He said the intent was to create the necessary infrastructure to respond rapidly to an emergency and to do early phase clinical trials so vaccines would be available in Canada.
“This is a good test of that (network),” Halperin said of clinical trials that will be the first of “many more to come.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 17, 2020.
Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press
3 new coronavirus cases confirmed in New Brunswick connected to health-care professional – Globalnews.ca
New Brunswick confirmed on Thursday three new active cases of the coronavirus that appear to have a connection to a health-care professional who worked in the Restigouche area.
The person travelled to Quebec earlier this month and did not self-isolate upon their return.
The new cases are of an individual under 19, another between 40 and 49 and the third over 90, who all reside in the Campbellton region.
At Thursday’s press briefing, Premier Blaine Higgs said information on this health-care professional has been passed along to the RCMP to determine exactly what took place and whether charges are warranted.
“I understand the person’s employer is also looking into the matter and I am confident the appropriate steps to address this incident will be taken.”
CEO of Vitalité Health Network Gilles Lanteigne said it has been contact-tracing since Wednesday afternoon and has so far tested 50 to 60 employees who had been in direct or indirect contact with the physician.
“We do the staff and the physicians that are under Vitalité and then probably help test the community contacts by doing over 100 tests,” said Lanteigne.
Campbellton Regional Hospital
As a result of the recent case of the health-care professional, the province announced that the emergency department at the Campbellton Regional Hospital is closed until further notice due to the increased risk of COVID-19.
“Non-urgent or elective health-care services at the hospital have also been put on hold. For now, patients seeking emergency care are asked to visit the Chaleur Regional Hospital in Bathurst,” the province said in a statement.
Higgs said many Zone 5 health-care workers and their families “are concerned about their potential exposure to the virus.”
“They are doing the right thing by getting tested and self-isolating until they have the results. Health-care workers in Bathurst are being asked to take on additional patients while their colleagues in Campbellton are unable to work,” he said.
Back to Orange level
On Wednesday, Zone 5 transitioned back to Orange level under the province’s COVID-19 recovery plan.
“The only reason we went back to Orange in that case (was) because we have a lot of contact tracing to do… so being very aware and needing to close the hospital in the region right now,” said Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health.
So far, she said 811 has received many calls, and about 290 people will be tested.
“We have great capacity to do that.”
In the meantime, Russell said the province could see transmission of the virus in other parts of New Brunswick if people have travelled to Zone 5 (Campbellton region) and did not maintain physical distancing.
Russell also noted that testing in the coming days will reveal a lot of information about the extent of transmission that may have taken place.
According to the province, the following rules apply to Zone 5 only:
- A two-household bubble is permitted. Your household can join up with one other household if both households mutually agree. You must not have close contact with anyone else. You cannot join up with more than one household or bubble.
- Non-regulated health professionals and businesses such as acupuncturists and naturopaths cannot operate at this time.
- Personal services businesses such as barbers, hairstylists, spas, estheticians, manicurists, pedicurists and tattoo artists cannot operate at this time.
The province said officials from WorkSafeNB and the Department of Public Safety are in the area to ensure compliance.
“They will closely monitor and assess the situation in the days ahead,” the province said in a statement.
All other zones in New Brunswick will remain at Yellow level.
The state of emergency has also been extended for another 14 days.
Both cabinet and the all-party cabinet committee have approved the extension. New Brunswick has been under a state of emergency since March 19.
To date, 23,693 tests have been conducted in New Brunswick. There have been 126 confirmed cases. The number of active cases is six and 120 people have recovered from their illness. None of the active cases are in hospital.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Three New COVID-19 Cases In Campbellton Region – country94.ca
New Brunswick Public Health is reporting three new cases of COVID-19 today and all are in the Campbellton region (Zone 5).
Chief medical officer of health Dr. Jennifer Russell says these new cases are connected to the three cases previously announced in Zone 5.
The three new cases are an individual under age 19, an individual in their 40’s and an individual over age 90.
Dr. Russell believes there will likely be more cases in that region in the days ahead.
Public Health has placed Zone 5 back into the Orange Phase of recovery.
The current active cases appear to have a connection to a health care professional who worked at the Campbellton Regional Hospital and travelled to Quebec earlier this month and did not self isolate upon return.
“Information on this health care professional has been passed along to the RCMP to determine exactly what took place, and whether charges are warranted,” said Premier Blaine Higgs. “I understand the person’s employer is also looking into the matter and I am confident the appropriate steps to address this incident will be taken.”
As a result, the emergency department at the Campbellton Regional Hospital is closed until further notice due to the increased risk of COVID-19.
While the rest of the province is now in the Yellow Phase of recovery, Higgs announced today that further reopenings in this phase which were scheduled for tomorrow – May 29 – will be delayed until next Friday, June 5.
Those reopenings are the following:
- Outdoor gatherings with physical distancing of 50 or fewer (June 5)
- Religious services, weddings and funerals of 50 or fewer (June 5)
- Increase in elective surgeries and other non-emergency health care services (June 5)
- Swimming pools, saunas and waterparks (June 5)
- Gyms, yoga and dance studios (June 5)
- Rinks and indoor recreational facilities (June 5)
- Pool halls and bowling alleys (June 5)
- Low-contact team sports (June 5)
Higgs has extended the provincial state of emergency for another 14 days.
Border restrictions will also remain in place until further notice.
New cat virus found at B.C. SPCA prompts science journal publication – Times Colonist
VANCOUVER — The outbreak of a fast-spreading disease at the SPCA’s animal centre in Vancouver has led to the discovery of a new feline virus that affected 43 cats in B.C.
It started when eight cats fell ill on a single day in 2018 with symptoms like a human stomach flu, but Dr. Emilia Gordon, the senior manager of animal health, says they became concerned when tests came back negative for parasites.
Gordon says in a news release they knew within days that they were dealing with a virus or bacteria they hadn’t faced before.
Outbreak tracing found two cats in the Quesnel shelter introduced the illness to Vancouver’s facility, where it spread rapidly before being detected.
A research team at the University of California, San Francisco found the new species of parvovirus, which isn’t related to COVID-19, and those findings were recently published in the science journal Viruses.
Gordon says the high rate of recovery was due to a quick response and stringent control measures, although two of the 43 cats that were ill were euthanized because of other medical problems.
“As soon as we understood we were dealing with something unusual, our first goal was to stop the outbreak so more cats wouldn’t get sick,” Gordon says. “Our second goal was to try to get answers for our teams, for the cats, and for other shelters and veterinarians facing unexplained gastrointestinal outbreaks in cats under their care.”
She says being part of the discovery of the new virus was very exciting, however data from a single outbreak isn’t enough to be certain the virus can cause disease and more research will need to be done.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 28, 2019.
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