Nearly two months ago, TrialSite News announced Canada was ready to sign a deal with China’s CanSino Biologics to supply that nation with their COVID-19 experimental vaccine called Ad5-nCoV. That deal in fact was done and it became apparent that Canada becoming dependent on a Chinese company for its COVID-19 vaccine. This was the case despite growing political tensions between the two countries. Shortly thereafter, Health Canada gave the greenlight for clinical trials in Halifax, Nova Scotia. In the meantime, CanSino Biologics was again the first vaccine sponsor to progress their investigational product to a Phase 3 clinical trial. In the case of trials in China, they would occur via the Chinese military for an exclusive one year term. But in the meantime, Canada’s National Research Council has been waiting for its product. What happened?
First, the news wasn’t widely published in the United States press (for whatever reason). That Canada was depending on a Chinese company for their national COVID-19 vaccine strategy seemed quite odd to the editorial group at TrialSite News. With tensions mounting between the big neighbor to the south and China, Canada’s had its own squabbles and they have grown worse (see below). But why would Canada depend on China for a vaccine for the worst pandemic in modern history? Why not look to the U.S., the U.K, and Europe?
Growing Tension between Canada and China
As reported in Canada’s Global News, Canada and China tensions have been strained for half a year and were consequently intensified by the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei Technologies, at the request of the United States. More recently, the relationship soured more when China placed more trade limits on Canadian exports.
Also recently, Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig were detailed in China while Prime Minister Trudeau suspects there is a link between the detention of the Canadians as a sort of tit for tat for the arrest of Weng Wanzhou in Canada. Since all of this, iPolitics’ Pinkerton reports various Canadian products, from meat to lumber, have been on an export restriction list.
Two months ago, Canada via its National Research Council announced to proceed with China-based CanSino Biologics to partner with the Chinese firm to test in Canadian clinical trials. Shortly thereafter, TrialSite News announced on May 15 that Health Canada issued no objection for the commencement of clinical trials; the Phase 1/2 clinical trial to evaluate the safety and efficacy of the vaccine was to include 696 participants and conducted by the Canadian Center for Vaccinology (CCfV) at Dalhousie University in Halifax. To be led by principal investigator Dr. Scott Halperin, he reported that the CCfV) would receive $800,000 from the Canadian federal government to conduct the clinical trial assessing the safety and efficacy of Ad5-nCoV. That money won’t arrive until the clinical trial commences.
As part of the deal between Canada and the Chinese company, the National Research Council would be able to produce emergency quantities of the vaccine, should it get approved by Health Canada. CanSino Biologics would retain all intellectual property rights.
The Deal Maker
Apparently that deal was handled by Navdeep Bains, Innovation, Science and Industry Minister for the Canadian government, reports Charlie Pinkerton with Canada’s iPolitics. Now the shipment has been in delay two months later. Health Canada reports that China’s customs are the culprits. Mr. Bains won’t confirm with the press if the delay is related to any political tensions.
Delays: A Coincidence?
The Canadian Center for Vaccinology was planning on initiating the clinical trial after Health Canada’s approval and once it actually received the vaccine product from China, stated John Power, a spokesperson for Mr. Bains, in an email to iPolitics. Dr. Scott Halperin, again the forthcoming study investigator, assumed he would start the study by the end of the month.
But apparently the CanSino Biologics “has not yet received the final approvals that are required to have the delivery shipped to Canada” stated Powers in an email. He avoided any discussion about the recent trade dispute escalations.
It would appear that the Chinese could be holding back the critical vaccine supply from the Canadians. That even after a good faith partnership was solidified by representatives of the Canadian government and CanSino Biologics. The possibility exists that a hiccup or glitch in Canadian national government bureaucracy could be the culprit but given the urgency around COVID-19, that’s highly doubtful. What is more perplexing to TrialSite News is why didn’t the United States and Canada collaborate more closely during this whole pandemic. Why would Canada have to go and place much of its hopes on a Chinese firm knowing there are mounting tensions with the awareness that China’s government ultimately operates under a different set of ideologies?