The first Canadian clinical trial for a potential COVID-19 vaccination has been approved by Health Canada.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Saturday that the Canadian Center for Vaccinology at Dalhousie University has been given the green light by the federal health authority to begin clinical trials of vaccine candidate.
Trudeau said the National Research Council of Canada will work with the manufacturers of the potential vaccine so that it would be able to be manufactured domestically should the trials be successful.
“If these vaccine trials are successful we could produce and distribute it here at home,” Trudeau said during his daily press briefing outside his home in Ottawa.
Health Canada has authorized 33 clinical trials for supportive care or treatments for COVID-19 to date. The vaccine trial announced Saturday, however, marks the first approved Canadian endeavour at finding a vaccine for the disease.
The announcement comes several days after the health agency announced the first authorized use COVID-19 serological tests, or antibody tests, in the country.
The Italian-made test, the DiaSorin LIAISON, was approved by Health Canada on Tuesday and will be used in Canadian labs to determine if a blood sample contains COVID-19 antibodies — evidence that an individual was exposed to the virus and recovered.
The federal government has made a billion-dollar investment in medical research to fight COVID-19, including $23 million to support pre-clinical testing and clinical trials of a potential vaccine in Canada and $29 million for the production of vaccines.
Experts say this puts Canada in a good position to manufacture a vaccine domestically, if and when one is approved, as countries around the globe race to develop their own solution to the pandemic.
Yet while the approval of a clinical trial is a step forward, much still needs to be done before a vaccine is available.
“Research and development take time, and must be done right, but this is encouraging news,” Trudeau said Saturday.
Vaccines are classified as biologic drugs under the Canadian Food and Drugs Act. According to Health Canada, biologic drugs differ from chemical drugs because they come from living organisms, which means they have more variables than chemical drugs.
“Biologic drugs require more regulatory oversight than chemical drugs,” reads the Health Canada website.
Clinical trials generally consist of three phases of studies in people before a vaccine is approved for general use. These studies often start with a few subjects, before they are broadened to include hundreds or even thousands of subjects.