Though not technically vegan due to animal testing, the vaccine’s approval by Health Canada is a regulatory first.
This article is based on corporate postings and accredited media reports. Linked information within this article is attributed to the following outlets: BioSpace.com, Medicago.com, LiveKindly.co, and News.Yahoo.com.
The history-making news was announced to substantial fanfare in Canada, giving citizens a choice between standard COVID-19 vaccines and a plant-based version.
In a February, 2022 article published by BioSpace.com, “Medicago’s Plant-Based Vaccine Bolstered by GSK Adjuvant Wins First Approval,” the two-dose vaccine was lauded by its parent company, Medicago: Canada’s Medicago scored a regulatory first after Health Canada approved its plant-based COVID-19 vaccine Covifenz that has been paired with GlaxoSmithKline’s pandemic adjuvant as a preventative treatment against the SARS-CoV-2 virus in individuals 18 to 64 years of age. Brian J. Ward, medical officer at Medicago, said Canada’s approval of Covifenz is demonstrative proof that the company’s novel plant-based platform can do the job. “We’re really excited about the approval,” Ward told BioSpace.
For a link to Medicago’s 25-page product monograph, see here.
Though the vaccination is marketed as “plant-based,” it is not vegan. LiveKindly.co, in their piece entitled “Is The Plant-Based Vaccine Vegan? No. But You Should Still Get Vaxxed,” addresses the distinction: Many people have been waiting for a COVID vaccine that is both ethical and doesn’t contain animal ingredients. Clinical trials for vaccines involve human volunteers, but before they reach that stage, their safety and efficacy must be tested on animals, per the FDA as well as guidelines worldwide. So, there’s still no such thing as a vegan COVID vaccine.
A further distinction addresses a common misunderstanding. Veganism is a lifestyle, not a diet. Strict vegans wear no leather and use no animal products in their day-to-day. Those who follow a plant-based diet but do not adhere to veganism proper may otherwise use animal-based products in their toiletries, their cars, and so on. I myself follow a plant-based diet, but have not wholly adapted vegan precepts as considered herein.
Is this new COVID-19 vaccine, then, considered “vegan friendly?
Let us explore further.
Late last year, news of the death of a vegan male who refused to take a COVID-19 vaccine due to “animal cruelty” in their preparation made global headlines.
According to Yahoo News, in its piece titled “Vegan Who Refused COVID Vaccine in Stand Against Animal Testing Died of Virus After Begging for Jab,” the decision came too late and the individual could not be saved: Glynn Steel, 54, died on 16 November after a two-week battle in intensive care, during which he is said to have begged nurses for a vaccination. According to his wife Emma, his last words were: "I have never felt so ill, I wish I'd had the vaccine." She is now calling on people to take up the vaccine, saying she has been left facing "an empty future alone".
Mr. Steel was not a sole case, and in part due to some within the vegan population who have been resistant towards any COVID-19 vaccine, entities such as Medicago have targeted their efforts to appeal to those who refrain from any semblance of what they consider animal cruelty.
As Covifenz is not technically vegan due to animal testing, issues have arisen about the vaccine appealing to the strictest followers of veganism. Also stated in the LiveKindly.co article as linked above is an encouragement for such options: Medicago intends to apply for approval of Covifenz in Japan and is also “in talks” with authorities in the US, EU, and Asia, bringing more vaccine options to the masses. COVID-19 has infected all corners of the world, so pragmatically, more options are a good thing.
Availability of Covifenz in the U.S. is reportedly a priority. Strict vegan-friendly options are also said to be in progress from other entities.
A plant-based COVID-19 vaccine represents another medical effort in our fight against the pandemic. Though more work has to be done for a vaccine to truly be vegan-friendly, progress appears to have been made.
I will update readers here in the event of further announcements.
Thank you for reading.