Canada to use world’s first plant-based Covid vaccine

The two-dose inoculation can be given to adults between the ages of 18 and 64

Covifenz was manufactured by biopharma company Medicago and GlaxoSmithKline. Getty Images
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Canadian regulators on Thursday announced that the country will use the world’s first plant-derived Covid-19 vaccine.

The vaccine, named Covifenz, was jointly developed by Medicago, a biopharma company owned by Mitsubishi Chemical and Philip Morris, based in Quebec City, and GlaxoSmithKline.

The two-dose vaccine can be given to adults between 18 and 64 years old.

The Quebec-based privately held company has an agreement to supply up to 76 million doses to the Canadian government.

“We're at a stage where we're ramping up capacity to meet the supply agreement,” said Marc-Andre D’Aoust, Medicago's executive vice president of innovation, development and medical affairs.

Medicago said it was committed to fulfilling the order as soon as possible.

The decision was based on a study of 24,000 adults that found the vaccine was 71 per cent effective at preventing Covid-19.

Side effects were mild and included fever and fatigue.

The study was conducted before the Omicron variant emerged.

Medicago uses plants as living factories to grow virus-like particles, which copy the spike protein that coats the coronavirus. The particles are removed from the plants’ leaves and then purified.

An immune-boosting chemical called an adjuvant, made by British partner GlaxoSmithKline, is then added to the shots.

Medicago plans to test the shot in children and as a booster dose for adults, Mr D’Aoust said.

The immunisation was granted fast-track designation by the US Food and Drug Administration in February last year.

The Canadian government on Thursday announced it was lifting the emergency powers it enacted more than a week ago to bring street protests under control, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau saying the authority is no longer needed.

The protests were initially against Canada’s Covid-19 vaccination requirements for lorry drivers transporting goods across the US border, before they expanded into a campaign against the country's broader coronavirus restrictions.

Agencies contributed to this report.

Updated: February 25, 2022, 9:04 AM