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Covifenz: First plant-based Covid-19 Vaccine from Canada. What do we know?


February 28, 2022.

People always believe in Nature.

Time heals the Nature Cures. I hope you will agree with me.

It is people’s general belief that nature will not harm us. (really?) Yes! Everyone does understand that Disasters from nature are a response to our acts on earth. Right?

Let’s dive into the subject.

Canada is the first country in the world to authorize the plant-based vaccine for Covid-19 (Sars-coV-2 virus) called Covifenz.

Covifenz was developed in collaboration by Medicago Inc., a biopharmaceutical business based in Quebec City owned by Mitsubishi Chemical and Philip Morris, and GlaxoSmithKline Plc.

What is a Plant-based medicine?

According to the Yale journal of biology and medicines Study on Plant-based medicine and Pharmacology, Plant-based medicine is a centuries-old tradition that is still practiced today. 

Some medicines have been passed down through generations, while others have only recently emerged. 

The use of medicinal plants is often underreported, resulting in continuous ambiguity about their therapeutic efficiency. 

What WHO says about Plant-based Vaccines?

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According to WHO, Vaccines are the most cost-efficient and effective way to reduce the illness burden of infectious diseases. New techniques to improve product quality and accessibility while cutting production costs are constantly being pursued.

Plant-based vaccinations provide several advantages. They can be generated in large quantities at a low cost, carrier plants like potatoes and corn are well tolerated by patients, and antigens derived from them are stable and may be kept for long periods. 

The chances of a plant virus contaminating food are nearly nil. Before plant-derived vaccines may be used on a large basis, various technical obstacles must be overcome, as well as the regulatory requirements for this innovative class of vaccines.

What do we Know about Covifenz?

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Covifenz is a Vaccine, which is plant-based, virus-like particles [VLP] vaccine.

Recombinant and adjuvanted from Medicago is approved by Health Canada for active immunization to prevent coronavirus disease Covid-19.

Covifenz utilizes Coronavirus-Like Particle (CoVLP) technology, with the vaccine including recombinant spike (S) glycoprotein produced as virus-like particles (VLPs) and delivered in conjunction with GSK’s pandemic adjuvant.

The vaccination protocol calls for two doses to be administered intramuscularly 21 days apart (3.75 micrograms of CoVLP antigen in combination with GSK pandemic adjuvant in the same injection).

The vaccination should be stored at temperatures ranging from 2 to 8 degrees Celsius. Covifenz antigen will be produced in both Canada and North Carolina (US).

Covifenz is not currently approved or permitted in any country other than Canada for the prevention of Covid-19 or any other indication.

What does Medicago say about covifenz?

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Medicago is on a mission to use the power of plants to help enhance worldwide public health. 

Medicago is a pioneer in plant-based therapies, having been founded in 1999 with the hope that novel approaches and rigorous research would lead to new solutions in healthcare. 

Takashi Nagao, President and CEO at Medicago said, “The approval of our COVID-19 vaccine is a significant milestone for Canada in the fight against the pandemic. We appreciate Health Canada’s timely review,”. 

“We’re also grateful for the Government of Canada’s support in the development of this new vaccine, and we are manufacturing doses to start fulfilling its order,” he added.

Roger Connor, President of GSK Vaccines, added, “This first approval is an important milestone in our approach of pairing GSK’s well-established pandemic adjuvant with promising antigens to develop protein-based, refrigerator-stable COVID-19 vaccines to help protect people against COVID-19 disease. 

We look forward to working with Medicago to make the vaccine available in Canada and to progress further regulatory submissions.”

The Government of Canada has a contract with Medicago (the Marketing Authorization Holder) to supply the Covid-19 vaccine. Medicago is committed to fulfilling this order as soon as possible.

How is Medicago Producing this Covifenz Plant-Based Vaccine?

Medicago uses plants to produce non-infectious virus-like particles that imitate the coronavirus spike protein.

The particles are extracted from plant leaves and cleansed. The doses are then supplemented with another substance, an immune-boosting chemical known as an adjuvant produced by the British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline.

How does Covifenz differ from other Vaccines?

The vaccine developed by Medicago uses technology that does not involve the use of animal products or live viruses.

It made use of recombinant technology, which involved the genetic sequence of a virus and living plants as hosts.

The resulting virus-like particles resemble the structure and dimensions of a virus, allowing the body to recognize them and trigger an immune response.

What are the Medicinal Ingredients of Covifenz?

Covifenz ingredients include:

  • Plant-based virus-like particles (VLP) of SARS-CoV-2 spike protein (original strain)
  • AS03 Adjuvant (manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline):
    • DL-alpha-tocopherol
    • squalene
    • polysorbate 80
    • phosphate-buffered saline

and other ingredients 

  • potassium phosphate monobasic anhydrous
  • anhydrous
  • sodium chloride
  • sodium phosphate dibasic anhydrous
  • water for injection

It May contain traces of polyethylene glycol, kanamycin, and carbenicillin.

What makes plant-based vaccinations effective?

Plants are used to develop plant-based technologies. These can include potatoes, corn, tobacco, and other relatives.

Because of the enormous variety of viruses that may successfully infect them, these plants are commonly utilized as hosts in plant biotechnology.

The method makes protein virus-like particles using the plant’s natural cell mechanism (VLPs).

The genetic instructions are encoded in the code, which is then introduced into the bacterium, which subsequently transports the information into the plant’s cells.

The plants rapidly create vast amounts of these particles, which are the most significant component of the vaccine.

Who are eligible for Covifenz plant-based Vaccine?

The Covifenz vaccine is safe and effective for people aged 18 to 64.

According to Health Canada, its effectiveness and safety in those under the age of 18 and above the age of 64 have “not yet been established.”, 

Other Covid-19 vaccines approved in Canada include,

  • plant-based vaccines:
    • Medicago’s Covifenz for those 18 to 64 years of age.
  • mRNA COVID-19 vaccines:
    • Pfizer-BioNTech Comirnaty for those 5 years of age and above
    • Moderna Spikevax for those 12 years of age and above
  • viral vector COVID-19 vaccines:
    • AstraZeneca Vaxzevria for those 18 years of age and older
    • Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) for those 18 years of age and older
  • protein subunit COVID-19 vaccines:
    • Novavax Nuvaxovid for those 18 years of age and above.

What are the possible side effects of the Covifenz Vaccine?

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Like other vaccines, Covifenz also has its side effects and it is usual to experience temporary side effects after receiving a vaccination.

These can persist anywhere from a few hours to a few days following vaccination.

Side effects of the vaccines are the body’s natural response as it works hard to build resistance to the disease.

Common Vaccines side effects may include; 

Injection Site:

  • Redness
  • Swelling and
  • Soreness

Other possible side effects include;

  • Chills
  • fatigue
  • Joint pain
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Muscle pain
  • Nasal congestion
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Nausea and
  • Diarrhea

Severe side effects called anaphylaxis, which is a rare one, symptoms include:

  • Lips, face, tongue, or airway swelling
  • Hives (bumps on the skin that are often very itchy)
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Consciousness lapse
  • Unexpectedly low blood pressure
  • Abdominal discomfort, vomiting, and diarrhea

If you experience or see any serious symptoms that could represent an allergic response following immunization, call emergency service.

What to know about Plant-Based Vaccines Safety?

The COVID-19 plant-based vaccine, like other vaccines approved for use in Canada, is subject to stringent safety, efficacy, and quality standards. Only vaccines that meet those criteria will be approved.

After approving a vaccine, Health Canada continues to monitor it to ensure that it is safe and effective.

In Canada, Health Canada maintains a robust medication safety monitoring system. Anyone who witnesses or has a vaccination side event is strongly advised to notify their health care provider.

How effective has Covifenz shown on Clinical Trials?

Covifenz vaccine was shown to be 71% effective against symptomatic infection and 100% effective against severe disease caused by Covid-19 in clinical trials.

These studies were carried out while many variants were in use. The data point to efficacy against a range of variations, including Delta.

Clinical trials with Covifenz have shown efficacy against the Delta and Gamma mutations, with additional data indicating efficacy against the Alpha, Lambda, and Mu variants.

While more research is needed, preliminary and exploratory data indicate that Covifenz creates neutralizing antibodies against the Omicron strain.

Need More Plant-based Vaccines?

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According to a study (Plant-based vaccines and antibodies to combat COVID-19: current status and prospects) published in NIH, The use of plants as a transient expression system could provide a platform for the production of vaccines, antivirals, and medicines to combat a variety of significant and developing dangerous infections such as SARS-CoV-2.

 By employing transient expression in plants, such pharmaceutical compounds can be created in a matter of weeks. Such items are less expensive to produce than those produced by traditional and main production procedures; nonetheless, the preclinical and clinical phases required for testing the practical efficacy of vaccines and medications take adequate time before they can be sold.

As WHO Said, There are several technical challenges concerning plant-derived vaccines that must be resolved before they can enter wide-scale use and the regulatory requirements for this novel class of vaccines must be established.

 In addition, public acceptance of the new technology must be ensured. 

Do you welcome the Plant-based Covid-19 Vaccines?

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