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Covifenz: The First Plant-Based Vaccine For COVID-19, Now Approved In Canada

Covifenz: The First Plant-Based Vaccine For COVID-19, Now Approved In Canada

Remember when we thought that having a COVID-19 vaccine right away was a shot to the moon? And then scientists surprised us with not just one but several vaccines made using different methods (mRNA technology, inactive virus, etc.). Now, we have another milestone: Canada has approved Covifenz, the first plant-based vaccine for COVID-19.

Here’s what you need to know about this development:

The first plant-based vaccine for COVID-19 is a concerted effort

Covifenz was developed by Medicago, Inc and GlaxoSmithKline Plc (GSK). It’s worth noting that Medicago is a unit owned by two companies: Mitsubishi Chemical Holding Corps and Philip Morris International.

Plant engineering is not a “new” technology

When the mRNA vaccine was rolled out, some of the people’s fears revolved around the “newness” of the technology.

Before worrying over plant-based technology, please note that it’s not exactly new. In fact, plant engineering has been present for over three decades now.

Even the World Health Organization acknowledges that plant-derived vaccines may have the following benefits:

  • We might be able to produce them cheaply in large quantities.
  • There’s a “negligible” likelihood of plant virus contamination
  • We might be able to use common plants like potatoes and corn as carriers.
  • Plant-derived vaccines can be stored for longer periods.

Covifenz is made from proteins

The newly developed plant-based vaccine for COVID-19 is made from proteins grown in plants closely related to tobacco. These proteins look like the virus that causes COVID-19 infection in humans and is capable of “training” our immune system against the actual SARS-CoV-2.

On top of that, Covifenz also has Glaxo’s pandemic adjuvant, a substance that helps boost our immune system. According to GSK, an adjuvant is “added to some vaccines to enhance the immune response, thereby creating a stronger and longer-lasting immunity against infections than the vaccine alone.”

In December, reports revealed that the vaccine has a 71% efficacy rate against multiple COVID variants. Trials also showed that it is 75% effective against the delta variant and 89% effective against the gamma, which was first identified in Brazil.

Since Omicron wasn’t circulating yet during the studies, the company plans to execute further research on it.

What can we expect from this plant-based vaccine for COVID-19?

As of this writing, Covifenz is only approved in Canada for people aged 18 and older. The country has secured 76 million doses of the plant-derived vaccine. However, the companies are reportedly in talks with Japan, USA, and authorities in Europe and Asia.

In case Covifenz becomes available in the Philippines, here are some points to keep in mind:

  • It still requires 2 doses (like most vaccines we have now).
  • It may be a good option for people who cannot or are not comfortable with mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna).
  • Covifenz is easier to transport and store because it doesn’t require ultra-low temperature for storage.

Depending on the results of their trials, we might be able to use it, too, for booster shots and in children younger than 18.

Get your COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible

At this point, what’s clear is that people should get their vaccine and booster as soon as they can. Experts have declared them safe and effective against severe COVID-19 infections that require hospitalization and might result in death.

Do you need more information about COVID-19 vaccines? The following article might help you:

Of course, if you have doubts and concerns about the vaccine and your health, it’s best to talk to your doctor.

More on Health News here.

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Sources

Canada approves a second vaccine made without mRNA technology., https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/26/world/canada/canada-covifenz-vaccine-mrna.html, Accessed Feb 28, 2022

Canada approves Medicago’s plant-based COVID-19 vaccine for adults, https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/canada-approves-medicagos-plant-based-covid-19-vaccine-adults-2022-02-24/, Accessed Feb 28, 2022

Plant-based vaccines for animals and humans: recent advances in technology and clinical trials, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4667769/, Accessed Feb 28, 2022

Plant-derived vaccines, https://www.who.int/teams/health-product-policy-and-standards/standards-and-specifications/vaccine-standardization/plant-derived-vaccines, Accessed Feb 28, 2022

Plant-derived vaccines, https://www.nature.com/articles/d43747-020-00537-y, Accessed Feb 28, 2022

Our response to COVID-19, https://www.gsk.com/en-gb/media/resource-centre/our-contribution-to-the-fight-against-2019-ncov/, Accessed Feb 28, 2022

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Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. Updated Apr 15
Medically reviewed by Dexter Macalintal, MD