A study published in the Lancet newspaper on Friday said that the formulation of CanSino Biologics Inc. in China needed more testing to determine if it could actually protect against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
But he said the first 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.
The results come just before researchers at Dalhousie University plan to test the CanSino product in Halifax in the coming weeks.
Dalhousie said the first clinical trial in Canada for a potential vaccine will start with fewer than 100 people between the ages of 18 and 55. A follow-up step will involve nearly 500 people across Canada, including those aged 65 to 85.
The Beijing professor in charge of the Lancet study stressed that the results should be interpreted with caution, describing it as “a promising vision for the development of COVID-19 vaccines”.
“We are still far from the availability of this vaccine for all,” Wei Chen of the Beijing Biotechnology Institute said in a statement on Friday.
The creation of a COVID-19 vaccine is seen as a crucial step in controlling the pandemic and enabling businesses, classes, organized sport, the performing arts and social activity to resume safely.
There are more than 100 candidate vaccines in development worldwide.
Dr. Joanne Langley of the Canadian Center for Vaccinology in Halifax said that CanSino’s partnership with the National Research Council of Canada emphasizes local scientific expertise and should secure a Canadian supply if the potential vaccine proves viable .
“We will likely produce the vaccine on Canadian soil, which gives us security of supply,” she said.
The Lancet study authors noted several limitations of the trial, including its small sample size, relatively short duration, and the absence of a randomized control group.
A phase 2 trial has already started in Wuhan which is randomized, double blind and placebo controlled.
This study will look for side effects up to six months after vaccination. It will also involve 500 adults, including participants over the age of 60.
The Lancet study was funded by the National Key R&D Program of China, the National Science and Technology Major Project and CanSino.