Cold shower for the vaccine manufacturer Medicago. Its plant-based vaccine will “most likely” not be approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) because of its ties to the tobacco industry.
• Read also – COVID-19: the Quebec vaccine Medicago receives the green light
The news appears to have taken the maker of the first-ever Canadian-designed COVID-19 vaccine by surprise. Thursday morning, Medicago indicated that it had not received “official communication from the WHO”.
“We understand that this decision is linked to the minority shareholder of Medicago, and not to the efficacy and safety of the vaccine, which were demonstrated during the authorization by Health Canada”, indicates the company.
“Medicago believes that these decisions should be based first and foremost on the quality, efficacy and safety of the vaccine. »
Quebec biotech is owned by Japanese Mitsubishi Tanabe (79%) and tobacco industry giant Philip Morris International (21%)
“Because of his connections – he is partly owned by Philip Morris – the process is therefore suspended,” the WHO’s deputy director-general for access to medicines, vaccines and pharmaceuticals said during a meeting. press conference.
“WHO and the UN have a very strict policy regarding engagement with the tobacco industry and armaments, so it is very likely that it will not be accepted for emergency use,” a- she added.
Approved by Health Canada
On February 24, Health Canada approved the two-dose vaccine Covifenz for people aged 18 to 64. Clinical trials have demonstrated an efficacy rate of 71% against symptomatic infection and 100% against severe disease one week after the first dose.
Remember that Canada has invested $173 million in Medicago to date. The federal government also has an agreement with the pharmaceutical company to buy up to 76 million doses of the vaccine.
Plant “cousin of tobacco”
Produced in partnership with the pharmaceutical company GSK, the vaccine is made from plants. “We work with a cousin of tobacco, the nicotiana benthamianawhich does not smoke, “explained in February 2020 Jean-Luc Martre, vice-president of marketing at Medicago.
According to the company’s explanations on its website, virus-like particles are incorporated into this plant, which then make it possible to manufacture vaccines.