Canada has become the first country in the world to authorize a plant-based COVID-19 vaccine.
Canadian regulators said on Feb. 24 that Quebec-based Medicago’s two-dose vaccine is approved for adults aged 18 to 64; there isn’t enough data to give to adults aged 65 and older, officials said.
In clinical trials cited by Health Canada, the vaccine was found to be 71 percent effective against symptomatic infection and 100 percent effective against severe symptoms associated with COVID-19, which is caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
“These studies were conducted while there were multiple variants in circulation,” Health Canada claimed. “The data suggest efficacy against multiple variants, including Delta. Clinical trials with Covifenz showed efficacy against the Delta and Gamma variants, and data also suggesting efficacy against Alpha, Lambda, and Mu variants.”
The vaccine, the agency added, appears to produce neutralizing antibodies against Omicron, which is the dominant strain worldwide.
“Health Canada has placed terms and conditions on the authorization,” the Canadian agency said. “Medicago must continue to provide information to Health Canada on the safety and efficacy of the vaccine, including protection against current and emerging variants of concern as soon as it is available.
“The vaccine is authorized for use in adults 18 to 64 years of age, based on the data that was reviewed by Health Canada. There was limited enrollment of participants older than 65 years of age in the clinical trials because a large proportion of older individuals were already vaccinated. Medicago is currently gathering data in older individuals to support regulatory authorization for this age group.”
The home-grown vaccine, branded Covifenz, is based on a technology that uses plants in its development process to produce non-infectious particles that mimic the virus. Medicago plans to test the shot as a booster dose and among children, Marc-Andre D’Aoust, an official with Medicago, told Reuters.
Medicago’s vaccine uses products that don’t involve animal products, according to the Canadian Press. It also uses recombinant technology, involving the genetic sequence of a virus, which employs living plants as a host.
The virus-like particles mimic the shape and dimensions of a virus, allowing the human immune system to trigger a response, according to the report.
The government of Canada, which has faced criticism in recent weeks for how officials handled widespread trucker protests related to vaccine mandates, has approved several vaccines including those based on mRNA technology from Moderna and Pfizer.
Last week, the country cleared Novavax’s protein-based shot for use in adults. Medicago intends to apply for approval of the shot in Japan and also is in talks with the U.S. government and regulatory authorities in Europe and Asia for the vaccine, D’Aoust said.
Reuters contributed to this report.