Covid: World’s first plant-based vaccine found to 71% effective in clinical trials

·2-min read

The world’s first plant-based Covid vaccine has shown strong protection against the virus in clinical trials and has been sent to regulators for authorisation across the world, its creators have announced.

Medicago, based in Quebec City, on Tuesday confirmed that its two-dose vaccine was 71 per cent effective against the disease in a late-stage study and that no serious safety issues were detected.

The company said its vaccine was effective against the Delta variant but results did not include the Omicron variant, which was not circulating at the time of the study period.

The firm said it had already begun the process to file with regulators in the US, UK and other countries. It will also send its data to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Medicago uses plants as living factories to grow virus-like particles, which mimic the spike protein which coats a Covid cell. British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline contributes an immune-boosting chemical called an adjuvant to the vaccine.

The firm’s medical officer told CBC News that the vaccine would be a “first for the world”. He added: “I think there will be an important need for our vaccine, both to increase the number of doses available for those who haven’t had any vaccines yet, but also possibly for those who need a booster dose.”

The arrival of the new vaccine comes as health bodies warn that immunisation must be ramped up in developing countries in order to prevent the emergence of new variants.

The detection of the Omicron strain in South Africa, which has only jabbed 25 per cent of its population, has intensified calls for the donation of jabs to countries with high transmission rates and low vaccination rates.

The Medicago study involved 24,000 adult volunteers who received either the vaccine or a dummy shot and were followed to track Covid infections and complications. They received two shots three weeks apart.

According to the firm, no serious safety issues were detected in the trials and common side effects like fever or fatigue were “mild to moderate” and resolved in three days or less.

The results of the trial have not yet been independently vetted by experts.

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