Quebec says mRNA COVID-19 vaccines preferable to Medicago in most circumstances

A vial of a plant-derived COVID-19 vaccine candidate, developed by Medicago, is shown in Quebec City on Monday, July 13, 2020 as part of the company’s Phase 1 clinical trials in this handout photo. HO, Medicago/The Canadian Press

Quebec’s immunization committee issued its guidance Tuesday on Medicago’s Covifenz vaccine, saying established mRNA vaccines such as those made by Pfizer and Moderna have been shown to be more effective.

The Canadian-made recombinant protein vaccine is the only plant-based vaccine against COVID-19 on the market, but it has struggled to find takers.

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Health Canada authorized Covifenz in February for adults 18 to 64, but the World Health Organization did not accept its application for emergency use because cigarette company Philip Morris has one-fifth ownership of Medicago. The WHO has since said it is reviewing its policies.

The Quebec Health Department said in a statement Tuesday the Pfizer and Moderna shots are preferable “because of accumulated experience showing that they have a slightly higher efficacy in most situations,” adding the available data suggests Covifenz could be used in certain situations.

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The committee recommends the two-dose vaccine be used for those aged 18 to 64 who are unable to get an mRNA vaccine or have fears about using them.

Health officials said Covifenz doses are expected to be available in late May. In the meantime, the Novavax Nuvaxovid vaccine, a two-dose protein subunit vaccine that does not use mRNA technology, is also an alternative.

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