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

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

K-J Millar/The Northern View
8 confirmed COVID-19 deaths in the Northern Health Authority

Since Nov. 27, there have been 191 new cases reported in NHA

A coal-fired power plant seen through dense smog from the window of an electric bullet train south of Beijing, December 2016. China has continued to increase thermal coal production and power generation, adding to greenhouse gas emissions that are already the world’s largest. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
LNG featured at B.C. energy industry, climate change conference

Hydrogen, nuclear, carbon capture needed for Canada’s net-zero goal

Victoria’s Royal Jubilee Hospital took in two COVID-19 patients from Northern Health as part of a provincial agreement. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria hospital takes in two COVID-19 patients from Northern Health

Royal Jubilee Hospital takes patients as part of provincial transport network

An aerial shot of Cedar Valley Lodge this past August, LNG Canada’s newest accommodation for workers. This is where several employees are isolating after a COVID-19 outbreak was declared on Nov. 19. (Photo courtesy of LNG Canada)
52 positive COVID-19 cases now associated with LNG Canada site outbreak

Eight cases still active, 44 considered recovered

Salvation Army file photo
Salvation Army kettle drive begins Nov. 28

Hamper demand has accelerated this year

Motorists wait to enter a Fraser Health COVID-19 testing facility, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Another 694 diagnosed with COVID-19 in B.C. Thursday

Three more health care outbreaks, 12 deaths

Melissa David, of Parachutes for Pets and her dogs Hudson and Charlie are trying to raise money for a homeless shelter that will allow pets and are seen in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘My only wish:’ Children asking pet charity to help their furry friends at Christmas

Parachutes for Pets says it has received 14 letters from children in the last week t

Melissa Velden and her chef-husband Chris Velden, stand in their dining room at the Flying Apron Inn and Cookery in Summerville, N.S. on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. The couple is hosting holiday parties with appropriate distancing and other COVID-19 health protocols in place at their restaurant. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Celebrities, Santa and Zoom part of office holiday parties being held amid COVID-19

Many will send tokens of appreciation to workers or offer time off or cash

A demonstrator wears representations of sea lice outside the Fisheries and Oceans Canada offices in downtown Vancouver Sept. 24, demanding more action on the Cohen Commission recommendations to protect wild Fraser River sockeye. (Quinn Bender photo)
First Nations renew call to revoke salmon farm licences

Leadership council implores use of precautionary principle in Discovery Islands

Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps poses for a photo with his parents Amanda Sully and Adam Deschamps in this undated handout photo. Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps was the first baby in Canada to be diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy through Ontario’s newborn screening program. The test was added to the program six days before he was born. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Children’s Hospital Eastern Ontario *MANDATORY CREDIT*
First newborn tested for spinal muscular atrophy in Canada hits new milestones

‘If Aidan had been born any earlier or anywhere else our story would be quite different’

(Pixabay)
Canadians’ mental health has deteriorated with the second wave, study finds

Increased substance use one of the ways people are coping

An RCMP officer confers with military rescuers outside their Cormorant helicopter near Bridesville, B.C. Tuesday, Dec. 1. Photo courtesy of RCMP Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey
Good Samaritan helped Kootenay police nab, rescue suspect which drew armed forces response

Midway RCMP said a Good Samaritan helped track the suspect, then brought the arresting officer dry socks

Most Read