The Chinese embassy in Ottawa (Jolson Lim/iPolitics)
The federal government found out that the Chinese government was interfering with Canada’s plan to test and possibly produce a COVID-19 vaccine made by a Chinese company just days after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the deal, according to newly released government documents.
The agreement between the Canadian government and CanSino Biologics Inc. would have made the latter the first company to conduct clinical trials for a COVID vaccine in Canada. It was also the first deal through which Canada could have secured a vaccine supply. It wasn’t until three months later — and after Trudeau announced additional vaccine deals with two other pharmaceutical companies — that his government conceded that its deal with CanSino was dead. READ MORE:Canada-bound vaccine blocked by China’s customs was created with Canadian tech
The National Research Council (NRC), the federal government’s scientific research organization, signed a deal with CanSino on May 6, 2020, to conduct Phase 1 and 2 clinical trials of its COVID shot, according to an NRC document that was tabled in the House of Commons on Monday.
Trials were meant to take place at Dalhousie University’s Canadian Center for Vaccinology.
CanSino’s product, called Ad5-nCoV, was considered one of the world’s top vaccine candidates at the time. It was made with the help of the Chinese military’s research arm.
“Under this agreement, CanSino was to provide candidate vaccine doses and transfer their vaccine technology, free of charge, for Phase 1 and 2 clinical trials in Canada, and grant the NRC a non-exclusive right to use, produce, and reproduce the vaccine for emergency pandemic use,” the NRC said in the response to a question on the House’s order paper from Conservative Health critic Michelle Rempel Garner.
Neither CanSino nor the Chinese government got any money from the Canadian government through the deal, the NRC said. Expecting more vaccines to be produced, Ottawa committed $44 million to ensure that the NRC’s facilities in Montreal met manufacturing standards.
On May 12, the NRC announced its plans to work with CanSino. Four days later, Trudeau promoted the partnership at one of his then-daily press briefings.
“If these vaccine trials are successful, we can produce and distribute it right here at home,” Trudeau said on May 16. “Research and development take time and must be done right, but this is encouraging news.”
Dr. Scott Halperin, director of Dalhousie’s vaccinology centre, told iPolitics around the same time that he hoped clinical trials would be approved “within the next week or two.” READ MORE:Clinical trials of Chinese vaccine similar to Ebola immunizer in Canada to begin in weeks
On May 19, the federal government learned that the shipments of the vaccine candidate were being held by China’s customs agency at Beijing Capital International Airport, according to documents tabled by Global Affairs Canada.
China’s State Council, the country’s cabinet, refused to issue the approval letter allowing the vaccine to ship to Canada. Around the same time, Chinese-made vaccine candidates were permitted to ship to other countries for trials similar to those CanSino had agreed to with the NRC.
A screenshot of a document from Global Affairs Canada tabled in the House of Commons on Jan. 25
It wasn’t until July 6 that the vaccine’s holdup was made public, when iPolitics reported that Halperin told a Commons committee that the Canadian Center for Vaccinology hadn’t received CanSino’s initial shipment.
While the government originally had high hopes for CanSino’s vaccine, those hopes fizzled after more data about the vaccine were made public, the NRC said.
“The Vaccine Task Force had originally ranked the CanSino Biologics vaccine candidate among the most promising globally. (Its) recommendation was subsequently revised, based on (its) analysis of additional clinical-trial data,” the NRC said.
The task force made that revision in July, John Power told iPolitics in a statement on Tuesday.
Power is the spokesman for François-Philippe Champagne, minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, the department that oversees the NRC.
On Aug. 5, Procurement Minister Anita Anand announced that the government had agreed to buy vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna. Their shots have since been approved by Health Canada and are being distributed across Canada.
“Due to lengthy delays in the shipment of the vaccine doses to Canada, the fact that CanSino’s candidate had already entered advanced testing in other countries, and the new clinical-trial data that had emerged from other
jurisdictions, it was decided in late August that the opportunity to conduct clinical trials in Canada for Ad5-nCoV had passed, and the government decided to focus on more promising candidates,” the NRC said.
The federal government and CanSino abandoned their partnership in late August.
CanSino is now running Phase 3 trials for Ad5-nCoV in several countries, including Pakistan, Russia, Mexico, and Chile. It hasn’t yet published final phase findings. China’s military approved the Ad5-nCoV for its soldiers on June 25. In November, the company’s chief executive said as many as 50,000 people had received it.
A screenshot of a document from the National Research Council that was tabled in the House of Commons on Jan. 25, 2021.
The failed vaccine collaboration came in the middle of diplomatic tensions between Canada and China, which continue.
Two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, have been in jail in China for more than two years. Officials from both countries’ governments have linked their imprisonment to the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, whose trial in Canada will determine whether she’s extradited to the U.S. to face charges of violating American trade sanctions against Iran.
The federal government found out that the Chinese government was interfering with Canada’s plan to test and possibly produce a COVID-19 vaccine made by a Chinese company just days after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the deal, according to newly released government documents. The...
China approves homegrown single-dose vaccine CanSino
Updated 2021.02.27 18:52 GMT+8
Unlike most of the other vaccines, the jabs of the vaccine CanSino requires only one shot. Researchers say its efficacy rate can reach 68 percent. And it doesn't need to be kept at a really low temperature. The single-dose CanSino vaccine is developed by the military scientist Chen Wei's team, and Chen says it appears highly effective.