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Update: Canadian COVID-19 clinical trial approved: Trudeau


Health Canada has authorized COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials at Dalhousie University, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said May 16.

The trials are part of work at the Halifax, Nova Scotia’s university’s Canadian Centre for Vaccinology, Trudeau said speaking from Ottawa’s Rideau Cottage.

“Research and development takes take and must be done right,” Trudeau said.

Dalhousie vice president for research and innovation Dr. Alice Aiken said the university is proud to have the clinical trial for a potential COVID-19 vaccine .

“It is a pivotal time for research and innovation in Canada, and the results from this trial could yield real and life-changing impacts that will be felt worldwide,” Aiken said.

Dr. Scott Halperin, director of the centre for vaccinology, said the trial has three phases.

First, researchers need to look at the safety of the vaccine and have approval from a research ethics board.

Once people begin receiving trial vaccine, it then needs to be determined if the body has a good antibody response.

That work could take several weeks, Halperin said.

Then, researchers follow test subjects for six months to determine the vaccine’s effectiveness.

“There will be multiple sites across Canada that will be participating in clinical trials,” Halperin said.

And, he added, it’s not just the one vaccine that is being worked on as researchers are not putting all their vaccine development eggs in one basket.
“There will be a lot more stories like this in a month or so,” he said.

Canada has 75,004 COVID-19 cases as of May 16, the bulk in Quebec followed by Ontario, Canada’s main population concentrations. Some 5,595 people have died nationwide.

On May 15, Trudeau announced $450 million in funding to help Canada’s academic research community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“By providing these institutions with immediate support, we continue to nurture Canada’s talent pipeline and sustain our innovation capacity, while helping to mitigate the negative impacts of COVID-19 on the research community,” Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry Navdeep Bains said.

On March 12, Health Canada authorized the first COVID-19 serological test for use in Canada, the DiaSorin LIAISON. The department said Canadian laboratories will use the test to detect antibodies specific to COVID-19.

“Serological testing will contribute to a better understanding of whether people who have been infected by COVID-19 are immune to the virus,” the department said. “Further research will also help us fully understand the relationship between positive antibody tests and protection against re-infection.”

Through the work of the federal COVID-19 Immunity Task Force, the department said, at least one million Canadian blood samples will be collected and tested over the next two years to track the virus in the general population and in specific groups at greater risk of having been infected, including health care workers and the elderly.

The department said 18 COVID-19 diagnostic testing devices have been authorized in Canada.

- More to come.

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