Quebec’s Medicago COVID-19 vaccine faces WHO rejection over company’s tobacco ties | CBC News

A plant-based COVID-19 vaccine developed by a Quebec biopharmaceutical agency will “very seemingly” not be authorized for emergency use due to the corporate’s ties to the tobacco business, a World Well being Group official mentioned Wednesday.

The WHO has paused the method for pre-qualification of Medicago’s new Covifenz shot on account of its hyperlink to Marlboro cigarette producer Philip Morris Worldwide. 

“Because of its connections — it is partially owned by Philip Morris — the method is placed on maintain,” mentioned Mariangela Simao, WHO’s assistant director-general for drug entry, vaccines and prescribed drugs, at a Wednesday media briefing.

“The WHO and the UN have a really strict coverage concerning engagement with the tobacco and arms business, so it is very seemingly it will not be accepted for emergency use itemizing.” 

In what the Quebec Metropolis-based biopharma firm calls a world first, the two-dose shot makes use of plant-derived, virus-like particles, which resemble the coronavirus behind COVID-19 however do not include its genetic materials.

It was authorized to be used by Well being Canada in February for adults 18 to 64 years of age. The Canadian authorities floated $173 million to assist the corporate develop the jab, and is to date the one nation to approve it.

Final October, Canada signed a deal to purchase 20 million doses of Medicago’s vaccine, with an possibility for 56 million extra, and the shot is anticipated to be made out there to the general public in Could. 

CBC Information contacted Well being Canada for remark however didn’t instantly obtain a response. 

In line with a WHO document dated March 2, the Medicago vaccine is listed as “not accepted.” If formally rejected, the vaccine can be excluded from the COVID-19 Vaccines World Entry (COVAX), a worldwide vaccine-sharing initiative.

Base choice on efficacy, security of shot: Medicago

In an announcement, Medicago says it has not obtained any official communication from the WHO. 

“It’s our understanding that the WHO has decided to pause the approval of the vaccine and that this choice is said to Medicago’s minority shareholder, and to not the efficacy and security of the vaccine, which was demonstrated with the approval by Well being Canada,” the assertion reads. 

“Medicago believes that these selections must be primarily based on the standard, effectivity and security of the vaccine.”

Philip Morris Investments, a subsidiary of Philip Morris Worldwide, has been a shareholder of Medicago since 2008 and at the moment holds an roughly one-third fairness stake, in line with its website. It says it has supported the corporate’s “modern plant-derived analysis and improvement centered on vaccines.”

These selections must be primarily based on the standard, effectivity and security of the vaccine.– Medicago

Medicago makes use of the plant species nicotiana benthamiana, a detailed relative of tobacco vegetation that’s used for pharmaceutical improvement, to provide its vaccine, largely due to the excessive variety of viruses that may efficiently infect it. 

Medical trials have proven the vaccine’s general efficacy price in opposition to all virus variants studied was 71 per cent, with a better efficacy price of 75 per cent in opposition to COVID-19 infections of any severity.

The vaccine can be the primary Western-manufactured COVID-19 shot to be rejected by the WHO, in line with Bloomberg.

WHO’s stance ‘not new,’ says epidemiologist

Dr. Gaston De Serres, a medical epidemiologist with Quebec’s public well being institute, says Medicago made the selection to simply accept Philip Morris Worldwide as one in every of its shareholders realizing “full properly” the well being company’s place on cigarettes.

“The WHO has been clear for years that one of many greatest killers on the planet are cigarettes and have mentioned firmly that they won’t encourage their merchandise or producers,” he mentioned in a French radio interview on Radio-Canada’s Tout un matin. 

“This isn’t new.”

Whether or not or not the WHO’s choice is appropriate might be debated, De Serres says. Nonetheless, he says the company is following its “strong logic, which is to say that there’s no place for tobacco firms within the well being world.”

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