COVID-19 plant-based vaccines

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About COVID-19 plant-based vaccines

One of the vaccines approved for use in Canada is a plant-based vaccine:

Medicago Covifenz® COVID-19 vaccine is a SARS-CoV-2 spike (S) recombinant (adjuvanted), protein virus-like particle (VLP).

This type of vaccine uses plant-based technology. The virus' genetic code is delivered to the leaf cell of the plant using a harmless bacteria. The plant’s natural cell process is used to produce a non-infectious VLP that mimics the spike virus that causes COVID-19. Your body’s immune system then responds to it in the same way it would if it encountered the real virus. You can’t get a disease from the vaccine.

How plant-based vaccines work

The plant-based technology is developed in carrier plants that can be relatives to the potato, corn, tobacco or others. These plants are used in the production of vaccines because of the large number of viruses that can successfully infect it. The technology uses the plant's natural cell process to produce protein virus-like particles (VLPs).

The plants quickly produce large quantities of these VLPs, which is the ingredient that produces the immune response.

The particles are injected into your body through a muscle. Once injected, they mimic the structure of the virus. They do this so the immune system will recognize them as a virus that the body must protect itself against.

The VLPs are non-infectious. Through this process, your body can mount a strong immune response against the spike protein without exposing you to COVID-19.

Plant-based vaccine safety

Like all vaccines authorized for use in Canada, the COVID-19 plant-based vaccine meets the safety, effectiveness and quality standards of Health Canada. Only vaccines that meet those standards can be approved.

After a vaccine is approved, Health Canada continues monitoring in order to ensure the vaccine is safe and effective.

Health Canada has a strong monitoring system for drug safety in Canada. Anyone who witnesses or experiences a side effect to a vaccine is strongly encouraged to report it to their health care provider.

Health care providers should report adverse events following immunization to their local public health authority. The public health authority then reports them to the Public Health Agency of Canada through their provincial or territorial public health authority.

For more information on drug safety, see safety after authorization for vaccines and treatments for COVID-19.

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