Volunteers needed as Canadian-made COVID-19 vaccine trials start in Halifax

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The four trials will be conducted in multiple locations, but Halifax will be the lead site for at least two of the trials.  (David Sorcher - image credit)
The four trials will be conducted in multiple locations, but Halifax will be the lead site for at least two of the trials. (David Sorcher - image credit)

Clinical trials for several Canadian-made COVID-19 vaccines are underway in Halifax, and the Canadian Centre for Vaccinology is looking for volunteers.

"We've done research to see why people participate in clinical trials. What motivates them ... it's altruism. They want to help," Dr. Scott Halperin, the centre's director, told CBC's Maritime Noon on Tuesday.

"It's that volunteer experience — people wanting to help out and contribute to this, the scientific process of making vaccines. And without those types of people, we just wouldn't be able to develop vaccines."

Halperin, who is also a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the IWK Health Centre, said the four trials will be conducted in multiple locations, but Halifax will be the lead site for at least two of the trials.

Dr. Scott Halperin, director of the Canadian Center for Vaccinology, said clinical trials for three vaccines have already started, and a fourth is expected to begin in the coming weeks.
Dr. Scott Halperin, director of the Canadian Center for Vaccinology, said clinical trials for three vaccines have already started, and a fourth is expected to begin in the coming weeks.(Brooklyn Currie/CBC)

He added that clinical trials for three vaccines have already started, and a fourth is expected to begin in the coming weeks.

Halperin said the centre still needs hundreds of volunteers.

"We already have volunteers that are participating, but these studies are done in phases so we start with younger people first and then older people," he said. "We're always recruiting for more people and more volunteers."

Two of the vaccines in development are in Phase 1, which requires up to 100 participants.

The third vaccine is in Phase 2 and requires up to 1,000 participants.

Once the vaccines reach Phase 3, the final stage, Halperin said tens of thousands of participants will be needed from around the world.

"The reason why we're testing the vaccines in volunteers, first in small numbers and then larger numbers as we go through the process, is to make sure it's safe to use in the entire population."

So far, no Canadian-made vaccine has been approved for use but Halperin said it's not too late.

"What we need is enough vaccines in the world for billions of people, so although we have a lot of vaccines and we hear about that we have sufficient supply lined up for Canada going forward — we don't have sufficient supplies for the whole world and Canada can contribute there too."

People who'd like to learn more or are interested in participating can visit the Canadian Centre for Vaccinology website or email ccfv@iwk.nshealth.ca.

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