The World Health Organization has rejected Medicago’s made-in-Canada COVID-19 vaccine, restricting the federal government’s ability to donate those doses to countries in need.
But it will review the decision and the process that led to it.
Medicago says WHO did “not accept” its application because it has a strict policy not to engage with companies that promote tobacco, and Philip Morris owns about one-fifth of the company.
WHO says it is now exploring different policy options for health products linked to the tobacco industry.
The federal government signed an agreement with Medicago in 2020 to buy 20 million doses once the vaccine was approved by Health Canada, with the option to purchase 56 million more.
The government’s ability to donate those doses to countries in need could be seriously impeded without WHO emergency approval.
Health Canada authorized Medicago’s two-dose Covifenz vaccine in February for adults 18 to 64.
In clinical trials it was more than 70 per cent effective at preventing COVID-19 infections and 100 per cent effective against severe illness, before the Omicron wave.
Last week, a senior WHO official said the UN body has strict policies about engaging with tobacco companies and arms manufacturers and as such, the review process for Medicago was on hold and it was likely its vaccine would not be accepted for an emergency-use licence.
—The Canadian Press