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USask’s VIDO-InterVac team collaborating with other universities to develop COVID-19 vaccine

Visiting scientists Jason Kindrachuk and Alyson Kelvin at VIDO-InterVac.
Visiting scientists Jason Kindrachuk and Alyson Kelvin at VIDO-InterVac. Credit: David Stobbe (USask)

The University of Saskatchewan’s VIDO-InterVac team is nearing human clinical trials for a COVID-19 vaccine being developed. They’re now collaborating with the University of Manitoba (U of M) and Dalhousie University to potentially speed up the process.

Dalhousie researcher Alyson Kelvin specializes in emerging diseases.

Read more: Saskatoon city committee votes to allocate $117K for coronavirus response

“Her own research is really looking at potential vaccines but also in understanding why older people and older animals are more susceptible to disease,” VIDO-InterVac director and CEO Volker Gerdts said.

Kelvin will be joining U of M researcher Jason Kindrachuk at the USask lab for the next year.

“His research is on understanding the impact of these viruses on the human immune system, the interactions with humans and how they cause diseases,” Gerdts said.

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VIDO-InterVac began research on COVID-19 in early January, starting the day the World Health Organization (WHO) announced there was a new disease spreading in China.

Read more: VIDO-InterVac shifts focus to hamsters in efforts to create COVID-19 vaccine

Since then, a vaccine has been developed and has been tested on hamsters and ferrets. Now the team is manufacturing proper vaccine materials to start human clinical trials in the fall.

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The human trials will be done in a phased-out approach, starting with tests on people aged 18 to 55. Once there’s sufficient evidence it is safe, it will be tested on other age groups.

The trials are expected to take months and it might be a while until the vaccine is available to the public.

“It takes a bit of time to do it so it’s probably more towards [next] summer for our particular vaccine, but as you know there’s some other candidates that are moving forward right now and might be available soon,” Gerdts said.
Coronavirus: Vaccine trials showing positive immune responses
Coronavirus: Vaccine trials showing positive immune responses

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

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Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or face coverings are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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