This 2020 electron microscope made available by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention image shows the spherical coronavirus particles from the first U.S. case of COVID-19. A recent study sparked some worry last week when it revealed a mutation “of urgent concern” in the virus responsible for COVID-19. But experts say more research is needed to determine what that really means.The preliminary, non peer-reviewed study from the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico indicated that a COVID-19 strand containing a specific mutation — on the spike protein D614G — is emerging as the dominant form of the virus. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-C.S. Goldsmith, A. Tamin/ CDC via AP

Halifax lab team to conduct first Canadian trials for possible COVID-19 vaccine

Lab was involved in trials that led to creation of Ebola vaccine

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.”

READ MORE: First clinical trial for potential COVID-19 vaccine in Canada approved: Trudeau

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.”

Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CanadaCoronavirusvaccines

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

More than 100 apartments for seniors approved in Nanaimo’s hospital area

Development permit issued for 1125 Seafield Cres.

Outreach team making connections with young people experiencing homelessness in Nanaimo

Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre youth advisory council initiative offers ‘no-barrier’ help downtown

Alzheimer’s society offering online support for caregivers in Nanaimo

Webinars explore ‘mindfulness’ in caring for dementia patients

Shopping resumes aboard Nanaimo ferry sailings

B.C. Ferries reopens gift shops on Queen of Cowichan and Queen of Oak Bay

City of Nanaimo reports on its salaries, expenses and payments

Municipality files statement of financial information with B.C. government

B.C. sees 25 new COVID-19 cases, community exposure tracked

One death, outbreaks remain in two long-term care facilities

Nanaimo RCMP want speeding motorists to ‘slow the blazes down’

Police raise alarm after seeing 400-per cent rise in excessive speeding tickets last month

City of Nanaimo takes inventory of its land for official community plan review

Report recommends high-density residential development, identifies shortage of industrial land

VIDEO: Vancouver Island cat missing 18 months reunited with family

Blue the cat found at Victoria museum 17 kilometres from home

VIU faculty members looking at COVID-19 impacts on communities

Vancouver Island University’s research award committee funds nine projects

Comox Valley RCMP looking for missing woman

Ami Guthrie was last seen in Courtenay in early July

B.C.’s COVID-19 job recovery led by tourism, finance minister says

Okanagan a bright spot for in-province visitor economy

Vancouver Island business ad unintentionally features OK gesture linked to white supremacy

Innocuous ‘OK’ gesture in cleaning franchise advertisement gets flak on social media for ‘supposedly’ promoting white supremacy

VIDEO: Alberta man rescues baby eagle believed to be drowning in East Kootenay lake

Brett Bacon was boating on a lake in Windermere when he spotted the baby eagle struggling in the water

Most Read