Canada authorizes first plant-based COVID-19 vaccine

Associated Press

Canada has become the first country to authorize use of a plant-based COVID-19 vaccine.

Canadian regulators said Thursday Medicago’s two-dose vaccine can be given to adults ages 18 to 64, but said there's too little data on the shots in people 65 and older.

The decision was based on a study of 24,000 adults that found the vaccine was 71% effective at preventing COVID-19 — although that was before the omicron variant emerged. Side effects were mild, including fever and fatigue.

This Sept 10, 2021, photo provided by Medicago, shows a tray of N. Benthamiana sprouts inside a Medicago greenhouse, in Quebec City.

Medicago uses plants as living factories to grow virus-like particles, which mimic the spike protein that coats the coronavirus. The particles are removed from the plants’ leaves and purified. Another ingredient, an immune-boosting chemical called an adjuvant that is made by British partner GlaxoSmithKline, is added to the shots.

While numerous COVID-19 vaccines have been rolled out around the world, global health authorities are looking to additional candidates in hopes of increasing the worldwide supply.

Quebec City-based Medicago is developing plant-based vaccines against multiple other diseases, and the COVID-19 vaccine may help spur more interest in this new method of medical manufacturing.

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.