Canada has been forced to abandon the first proposed clinical trials for a Covid-19 vaccine in the country after Beijing blocked the shipment from a Chinese company involved in the collaboration.
The Canadian government has now turned to a couple of American drug companies, signing agreements for 114 million doses of potential candidates to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
The Government had announced the partnership between the National Research Council of Canada or NRC and CanSino Biologics, headquartered in Tianjin, China, in May.
However, the NRC has said that CanSino no longer had the authority to ship the vaccine for trials to Canada. Those trials were to be held at the Canadian Centre for Vaccinology at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, which had also shared its research expertise with the Chinese firm.
“Subsequent to signing, the Government of China introduced process changes regarding shipping vaccines to other countries,” the NRC said, in a statement.
It also noted that the agreement had been reviewed by CanSino’s collaborators in the Chinese Government – the Beijing Institute of Technology and the Ministry of Science and Technology. The vaccine is being tested on soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army, while it was scheduled to have had human trials in Halifax.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has now announced that the country has inked deals with two American companies, Novavax and Johnson & Johnson “to procure millions of doses of experimental Covid 19 vaccines.” It had recently also signed similar agreements with two other companies, Pfizer and Moderna.
“With these additional agreements in place, Canada has now secured access to four of the leading vaccine candidates,” the Prime Minister’s office (PMO said in a statement.
Anita Anand, Canada’s Minister of Public Services and Procurement, said, “We are taking an aggressive approach in procuring a portfolio of the most promising vaccine candidates in order to ensure that Canadians will have access to them as quickly as possible once they have been approved.”
The CanSino agreement had come under criticism at the time when it was announced, as it came while two Canadians, including a former diplomat, were being held cave in China, in what Canadian officials described as “hostage diplomacy.”
Several Canadians have also been sentenced to death in China after a senior executive of the Chinese telecommunications company Huawei, Meng Wanzhou, was arrested in Vancouver where she is facing trial for fraud related to a bank in attemng to bypass sanctions on Iran. Even as that case proceeds in Canada, relations with Beijing have hit a new low over the past two years, making the collaboration agreement particularly surprising.