Canada Working on Medicago’s ‘Tobacco Problem’

    Photo: Auramar, artwork: Dan Kurtz

    The government of Canada is “working on a solution” to help Medicago donate its Covid-19 vaccine to low-income countries, reports CTV News.

    In February, Health Canada approved the pharmaceutical firm’s Covifenz vaccine for people aged 18–64. The federal government has signed a contract to buy up to 76 million doses with plans to donate vaccines to low-income countries.

    However, the World Health Organization has rejected the vaccine because Philip Morris is a minority shareholder in Medicago, and the U.N. agency has a strict policy about engagement with the tobacco industry. Donations are not allowed without WHO approval.

    Medicago’s majority shareholder, Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma, has approached the Quebec government for support so Medicago’s vaccines “can receive a favorable reception from the WHO and be marketed on a large scale,” according to an entry in the Quebec Registry of Lobbyists.

    During a meeting with Mitsubishi executives in Japan, Innovation, Science and Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne indicated that there were discussions about the future of Medicago as a global vaccines manufacturer.

    While ruling out buying shares in Medicago for the time being, Champagne indicated that the government was looking at other ways to help make Medicago a “global champion.”

    Quebec Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon said in June that he has been in discussions with Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma executives to resolve the impasse, but the Japanese company must first negotiate the purchase of Philip Morris’ stake itself.