Canada’s federal government has signed agreements with two U.S. drug companies to secure up to 114 million doses of potential COVID-19 vaccines under development.
Maryland-based biotechnology company Novavax announced in a press release Monday that it has struck a deal to produce 76 million doses of a vaccine it is working on for the Canadian government, should the vaccine ever get Health Canada approval.
Later in the day, Ottawa announced it has signed a separate deal with a subsidiary of New Jersey-based drug conglomerate Johnson & Johnson to secure up to 38 million doses of the company’s potential vaccine, which is completely different from Novavax’s.
The vaccines are two of dozens in development around the world, each of which targets the virus that causes COVID-19 in a different way.
At last count, the virus has killed more than 846,000 people around the world since the start of this year.
Novavax’s vaccine is known as a “protein subunit” vaccine, which has the advantage of being manufactured faster than some other types of vaccine but generally doesn’t produce as strong an immune response as some other potential options.
The company released promising results of a very small clinical trial earlier this month, which showed it produced higher levels of the antibodies in healthy volunteers after two doses than those found in recovered COVID-19 patients.
The initial trial tested 106 subjects aged 18 to 59 with the vaccine, along with 25 people who received a placebo.
The next phase of testing currently underway in the U.S. and Australia will include many more people, and at least half of them will be between the ages of 60 and 84, an age bracket that faces the highest risk of having the worst outcomes from being infected, based on what is known about the virus.
The company plans to start much larger late-stage clinical trials soon, and told Reuters last month that if all goes well, they expect they could obtain regulatory approvals as early as December.
The company said Monday the vaccine, should it work and be safe, would be available to Canadians as early as the second quarter of 2021.
“We are pleased to work with the Canadian government on supply of our COVID-19 vaccine, an essential step to ensure broad access of our vaccine candidate,” said CEO Stanley C. Erck in a release.
The agreement with Novovax “will give Canadians access to a promising COVID-19 vaccine candidate,” said Anita Anand, Canada’s minister of public services and procurement, in a news release.
“This is an important step in our government’s efforts to secure a vaccine to keep Canadians safe and healthy, as the global pandemic evolves.”
Novavax has signed similar deals with the United Kingdom, India, the Czech Republic, South Africa and Japan to supply doses of the potential vaccine.
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine candidate, whose full name is Ad26.COV2.S, targets the virus in a completely different way than the Novavax candidate.
It is what’s known as non-replicating viral vector vaccine, which are viruses that have been genetically engineered so they can’t replicate and cause disease then injected into the body to provoke an immune response.
A phase 1 and 2 trial of that vaccine is underway in the U.S. and Belgium.
The deals with Novavax and Johnson & Johnson come on the heels of similar ones that the federal government has signed with other drug companies, including one for at least 20 million doses of a potential vaccine from Pfizer and up to 56 million from Moderna.
While the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are both RNA vaccines and thus functionally similar, they are completely different from the Novavax and Johnson & Johnson candidates, which means that Canada has potentially secured access to millions of vaccine doses that work in three completely distinct ways.
At a press conference on Monday, Anand said the government is also in the final stages of negotiations with drug firm AstraZeneca, which is working with Oxford University on a promising non-replicating viral vector vaccine.
“Taken together, our vaccine agreements will give Canada at least 88 million doses, with options to obtain tens of millions more,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at a press conference on Monday morning, during which he also announced $126 million to expand a bio-manufacturing facility in Montreal, to produce drugs and vaccines to combat COVID-19 and other things.
“In the weeks and months ahead, our government will continue to take the steps needed to make sure Canada gets a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible,” Trudeau said.
“Once a vaccine is proven to work, we’ll also need to be able to produce and distribute it here at home.”
Novavax’s vaccine is one of roughly a dozen that has been singled out by the U.S. government for funding under the so-called Operation Warp Speed plan to speed up treatments for the coronavirus that has swept the world into economic chaos this year.
Two more nooses found at construction site at Michael Garron Hospital – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News
Chris Fox, CP24.com
Published Friday, September 25, 2020 11:43AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, September 25, 2020 12:27PM EDT
Two more nooses were found at a construction site at Michael Garron Hospital on Thursday, prompting its president and CEO to release a statement expressing her shock and anger at what she says is clearly “a systematic problem.”
There have been at least four separate incidents so far this summer in which nooses have been left hanging at construction sites in the city, including another one at the Michael Garron worksite in June.
The incidents prompted Mayor John Tory to holds a series of meetings with executives and union leaders from the construction industry earlier this summer in which he challenged them to take action to address anti-Black racism within the sector.
The latest incident, however, casts a shadow over those efforts.
“This pattern indicates a systemic problem. Although we have been reassured by the efforts made by EllisDon and others to address racism in the construction industry, it is clear that they need to do better,” Michael Garron Hospital President and CEO Sarah Downey said in a statement issued Friday. “I am committed to addressing systemic and overt racism within our organization and the health sector and will hold EllisDon and all of our partners accountable to do the same.”
Downey said that the latest “despicable acts of racism” at the work site are particularly disheartening given the efforts the hospital went to in June to help the community recover, which included the staging of a “healing ceremony” before the final structural beam was erected in its new building.
She said that viewed through that lens, what happened on Thursday can only be described as “an overt attempt to dismantle the reconciliation work our community and our hospital has done to heal.”
For its part, EllisDon told CP24 in a statement that it immediately contacted police after becoming aware of the latest incident and will also be conducting its own investigation.
As well, the company says that members of its senior leadership team will be visiting the site today to “address the project team and condemn these actions.”
“We strongly condemn all acts of racism and we stand by our Black employees, subtrade workers and local community members,” the statement reads.
In a series of messages posted to Twitter on Friday morning Mayor John Tory said that he is “deeply concerned” with the latest incidents at the Michael Garron worksite, noting that “this blatant hatred and threat of violence, has no place in our city.”
Tory said that he will also continue to work with the construction industry to address anti-Black racism, as he has throughout the summer.
As part of that work, EllisDon has already taken a number of actions, including the creation off three employee-led leadership teams focused on anti-racism, inclusion and gender equality.
It has also created an Alliance of Black Employees Experience and Leadership (ABEEL) group.
Canada signs deal to obtain 20M doses of Oxford coronavirus vaccine candidate – MSN Canada
The vaccine is being developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University.
It’s one of several potential vaccines that the government has signed deals to procure in the event they are successful.
Agreements were previously reached with major pharmaceutical companies including Sanofi, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and Novavax.
“Canadians must have access to a safe and effective vaccine against COVID-19 as quickly as possible, no matter where it was developed,” Trudeau said during a press conference in Ottawa on Friday.
Trudeau also announced that Canada is joining an international coalition on vaccine distribution.
Canada will contribute $440 million toward the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access Facility, known as COVAX.
Canada is joining both parts of the initiative: one which secures access to millions of doses of vaccines for Canada, and the other which has wealthier nations pooling their funds to help lower and middle-income countries secure doses as well.
The deal will give Canada the option to buy up to 15 million doses, Trudeau said.
Joining the program will allow Canada to help ensure the successful vaccine is distributed “quickly and fairly” around the world, according to the prime minister.
“This pandemic cannot be solved by any one country alone because to eliminate the virus anywhere, we need to eliminate it everywhere,” he said.
–With files from The Canadian Press
Video: COVID vaccine tested, experts say no corners cut (The Canadian Press)
Canada signs deal to obtain 20M doses of Oxford coronavirus vaccine candidate – Global News
The coronavirus is continuing to mutate, and a recent study believes one of the lastest strains could be more contagious.
The study out of Houston was published Wednesday on the preprint server MedRxiv. It has not been peer-reviewed, meaning the research has yet to be evaluated and should not be used to guide clinical practice.
The research found the mutation did not make COVID-19 deadlier, but with the spike in coronavirus cases across the U.S. and Canada, the virus has had opportunities to change and become more infectious.
David Morens, a virologist at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the Washington Post, that the findings could mean COVID-19, through its mutations, is responding to public health interventions, such as mask-wearing and social distancing.
“Wearing masks, washing our hands, all those things are barriers to transmissibility or contagion, but as the virus becomes more contagious, it statistically is better at getting around those barriers,” Morens said.
But he stressed that this is still a new study and the research should not be over-interpreted.
The pandemic virus is mutating, but there’s no need to panic
About the study
The study’s researchers said they sequenced the genomes of 5,085 strains of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and examined it over the two pandemic waves in Houston, an ethnically diverse region with seven million residents.
The first coronavirus wave took place from March 5 to May 11. The second was from May 12 to July 7.
The authors said many different strains of the virus entered Houston initially. But when the city went from a small first wave in March to a much larger second one in late June, almost every coronavirus sample contained a particular mutation on the virus’s surface.
The research found that “virtually all strains” in the second wave have a “Gly614 amino acid replacement in the spike protein,” which is linked to increased transmission and infection.
Strains with the Gly614 amino acid variant represented 71 per cent of SARS-CoV-2 sequenced in March (the early part of wave one), 82 per cent a few weeks later and then 99.9 per cent in the second wave, the study found.
People infected with the mutated strain had higher loads of the virus in their upper respiratory tracts, a potential factor in making the strain spread more effectively, the authors said.
They added that the severity of each case depended on whether the patient had underlying health conditions.
The rise of this contagious strain of COVID-19 may have contributed to a spike in cases in the Houston area, the study concluded.
Coronavirus: Trudeau says 2nd wave of COVID-19 infections ‘already underway’ in 4 biggest provinces
Levon Abrahamyan, a virologist at the University of Montreal, said the study is “very important” as there are a large number of samples to examine.
However, he said, it has limitations.
“It’s hard to take into account variables like ethnic background, age, economic status, medical care … All of this can have an influence on the outcome,” he explained.
So, what does this mean?
Morens said if the findings turn out to be correct, the mutation may have implications for a vaccine.
If someone receives a coronavirus vaccine, there is a “possibility” that the virus will find a way to get around the immunity, he said.
Abrahamyan said if the virus does have the ability to transmit or infect more easily, this could mean that, on a global level, we would be dealing with a strain of the coronavirus that may change every few years, like influenza.
“Every year we may have a new strain, which means we may have to have a new vaccine and change it every few years,” he said.
Ever since COVID-19 emerged in Wuhan, China last year, thousands of mutations have been observed, scientists said.
“It’s absolutely normal for a virus to mutate. They do so at a very high rate, too, which is why they are so adaptable; they have the ability to adapt to new situations and new hosts. This is why we have this new coronavirus,” Abrahamyan said.
He added that even though the coronavirus mutates quite frequently, it still does not do so as fast as other viruses like influenza and HIV.
Winnipeg’s influenza epidemic of 1918-1919
“This is not the first report about this mutation. A change in a spike protein is important for the virus to bind to the host cell,” Abrahamyan said.
Abrahamyan said what could make this coronavirus mutation different is that scientists are speculating the coronavirus could have a higher “fitness,” meaning, it can increase its chance to attach and enter the human body or multiply.
But in terms of its ability to get through a mask, he said he doesn’t buy it.
“I don’t believe in that speculation. It can’t change its ability to get through a mask — the size is still the same.,” he said. “(Instead) we’re talking about its higher fitness level for this mutant strain of coronavirus … Its mobility could be higher.”
Abrahamyan stressed until there is a safe vaccine available, wearing a mask, washing your hands and practising physical distancing is still the best way to safeguard against spreading COVID-19.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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