VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — While the vast majority of us are watching on with hope as the BioNTech and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine gets federal approval for use in this country, it’s particularly special for a local company which has played its part.
There’s plenty of reason to celebrate, says Dr. Tom Madden, the president of Vancouver-based Acuitas Therapeutics, which has developed the vaccine’s delivery system.
“Everybody within Acuitas has been working flat out since February of this year, working all hours of the day and night, supporting our partners in development of several COVID-19 vaccines,” Madden says.
“We’re all immensely pleased and proud that the vaccines have now been approved in the [United Kingdom] and now in Canada.”
The vaccine uses lipid nanoparticles developed by Acuitas, which the company says could also be used in other potential COVID-19 vaccines that are currently under development, with agreements for that already in place.
NEWS 1130 also asked Madden about the situation involving two people who have experienced a negative reaction in Britain.
“There are reports of two health care workers in the U.K. who experienced an allergic reaction,” Madden says. “What I understand is that both of these individuals had prior serious allergies, so obviously it’s of concern. They both responded well to treatment, which is great. But the U.K. authorities have I think appropriately have issued a warning for individuals who have prior severe allergic reactions, should at this point, not take the vaccine.
“The other point the U.K. health authorities had noted is that this is not particularly unusual with vaccines. It’s been seen with others. Obviously they want to continue to look into the particular instance here, but they want to put it in the context of the seriousness of the COVID-19 disease, and the number of individuals who have quite frankly died of COVID-19. I think this is a prudent warning to people who do have a prior history of serious reactions, but otherwise I think the expectation is that the vaccine will be safe and effective in the general population.”
And Madden is urging the vast majority of us to get a vaccine when it is available to us, asking us all to do our part.
“Vaccination, historically, has been one of the most important advances in medicine,” Madden insists. “Many very serious diseases that affected us 50 or 100 years ago have been eliminated or largely controlled through vaccination. Vaccination can only be really effective if a large percentage of the population receives the vaccine. In a way, it’s a sort of a social compact, where we’re collectively agreeing to receive the vaccine, so that collectively we’re protecting those members among us who may be at more serious risk of serious disease.
“I think it’s something we can all play a part in protecting those individuals who are particularly at risk.”
B.C. is set to receive four trays of approximately 975 doses next week, with the first doses going to frontline healthcare workers.
“This is obviously a global pandemic,” Madden says. “We want the vaccine to be available to everybody, but as Canadians, and as a Canadian company, the approval by Health Canada is a particularly proud moment.”