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A Canadian Lab Is Working On A Coronavirus Vaccine

It could be a full year before human trials begin.

Saskatchewan's emerging disease lab VIDO-InterVac is developing a vaccine for a deadly coronavirus that originated from Wuhan, China. The virus has since infected over 4,500 people in more than a dozen countries, including three people in Canada. Though there currently isn't a coronavirus vaccine in Canada, the lab says human testing could begin in one year.

People have concerns about the virus in Canada. In Vancouver, medical facemasks have sold out and people were seen wearing jugs on their heads for protection at YVR. News of a vaccine being developed is welcome news.

VIDO-InterVac was greenlit to begin vaccine research on Wednesday, January 22. The approval came hours after the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) finished assessing the virus, according to the University of Saskatchewan.

In a statement to Narcity, the lab's CEO Dr. Volker Gerdts wrote that "development and clinical testing will take months to complete, and that is if everything goes well."

He anticipates it will be a full year before the vaccine is ready for testing in humans.

As of Wednesday, January 29, three presumptive cases of coronavirus were identified in Canada. This means patients were diagnosed with coronavirus on the provincial level, and samples have been sent to the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnepeg for analysis.

There are two cases in Ontario and a third was announced Tuesday, January 28 in B.C.

"Currently, there is no approved vaccine that protects against coronaviruses in humans," said PHAC spokesperson Anna Maddison in a statement to Narcity.

The name coronavirus actually refers to a larger family of viruses including the infamous SARS, a different coronavirus that also originated from China, according to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC).

While vaccines have been developed for some coronavirus strains, none have been approved for public use.

According to CBC, VIDO-InterVac is uniquely positioned to research the vaccine. They've worked on SARS in the past, and have successfully developed coronavirus vaccines for cattle and pigs.

Several of their researchers are also experienced with researching the virus.

The global research and vaccine development efforts are being coordinated by the World Health Organization and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, said Maddison.

Narcity has reached out to the BCCDC, several vaccine and viral pathology experts, and VIDO-InterVac for further comment. This article will be updated.

The BCCDC wrote that while the first cases were linked to the Wuhan Seafood Market, the disease may spread through human-to-human contact via coughing and sneezing.

They say to avoid touching your eyes or mouth if you've come in contact with something an infected person has touched.

BCCDC lists the main symptoms as fever, coughing, pneumonia in both lungs, and difficulty breathing. The mortality rate is estimated to be between 2% to 4%.

However, there's still much we don't know about how the coronavirus spreads.

To prevent it from spreading, major Canadian airports have begun screening for the virus. PHAC also advised Canadians to avoid travelling to the province of Hubei, where Wuhan is located.