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Made-in-Canada coronavirus vaccine inches closer to reality

Last Updated May 26, 2020 at 9:09 am PDT

FILE - A patient receives a shot in the first-stage safety study clinical trial of a potential vaccine for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

TORONTO – Canadian researchers have moved a step closer to human trials of a COVID-19 vaccine.

In the global race to wipe out the coronavirus, a made-in-Canada vaccine appears to be a real possibility. Researchers at the University of Saskatchewan’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization – International Vaccine Centre, are hoping to start human trials in the fall.

There are currently as many as 100 experimental vaccines being developed for the virus around the world, including a collaboration between Canada and China.

Meanwhile, another vaccine is already approved for human testing in Canada, with trials set to begin next week.

A study published last Friday in the Lancet says the formulation from China’s CanSino Biologics Inc. needs more trials to determine whether it can actually protect against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

However, it adds early trials involving 108 adults in Wuhan produced neutralizing antibodies and a response in T-cells, which protect the body from pathogens, after 28 days. The most common side effects – described as “mild” and “moderate” – were pain at the injection site, fever, fatigue and headache.

Dalhousie University researchers say Canada’s first clinical trial for a potential vaccine will start with fewer than 100 people between the ages of 18 and 55. A followup stage will involve almost 500 people across Canada, including those aged 65 to 85.

In the U.S., biotech company Novavax has just started human testing on participants in Australia, with the hopes of releasing a proven version this year.

Officials say 131 volunteers will get an injection in the first phase of the trial, testing for safety and looking for signs of effectiveness.

“We want to thank the volunteers who are stepping forward for the benefit of millions of people around the globe, and I sincerely believe we have a vaccine that is going to be very good,” Novavax chief scientific officer Doctor Gregory Grenn said, adding he has high hopes.

The creation of a COVID-19 vaccine is seen as a crucial step to controlling the pandemic and allowing for the safe resumption of businesses, classes, organized sport, performing arts and social activity.