Canada has scrapped a Covid-19 vaccine development agreement with the Chinese pharmaceutical company CanSino citing delays in shipping the drugs. Earlier this week CanSino had denied that the collaboration had been dropped, but the National Research Council, a government-funded body, confirmed that clinical trials of vaccine candidate Ad5-nCoV would not go ahead in Canada. In response to queries, the council said: “Due to the delay in the shipment of the CanSino Covid-19 vaccine candidate doses to Canada and as CanSino has now completed phase 1 and phase 2 clinical trials elsewhere, this specific opportunity is over and the NRC is focusing its team and facilities on other Covid-19 priorities.” The council signed an agreement with CanSino to conduct phase 1 trials in May. On Thursday, Hong Kong-listed CanSino filed a statement to the city’s stock exchange denying the deal with Canada had collapsed following media reports. China promises its Mekong neighbours priority access to coronavirus vaccine Ad5-nCoV, developed by China military scientists led by Major General Chen Wei and Tianjin-based pharmaceutical company CanSino, is one of the front runners in the race to develop a Covid-19 vaccine. The National Research Council said it has switched its focus to collaboration with North American partners and is working with Massachusetts-based VBI Vaccines and The University of Saskatchewan’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organisation-International Vaccine Centre. “We are also actively pursuing discussions with other partners to collaborate on other vaccine candidates and will announce these collaborations as they are confirmed,” it said. The first phase of trials was originally scheduled for early June, but the shipment of the CanSino vaccines was denied permission. “Subsequent to signing, the Government of China introduced process changes regarding shipping vaccines to other countries. The process is not clear to the NRC, but CanSino does not have the authority to ship the vaccine at this time,” the council continued. It remains unclear if political tensions between the two countries had any role in the hold-up at Chinese customs, which have approved the shipment of CanSino vaccines for trials in other countries. But the research council stressed that the deal had been approved by the Chinese government, saying: “The agreement between the NRC and CanSino had been reviewed prior to signature by CanSino’s collaborators in the Chinese Government – the Beijing Institute of Technology and the Ministry of Science and Technology – who had provided funding to CanSino.” The Chinese government has not made any public announcement about changes to shipping requirements for vaccines, while customs did not respond to questions about the reason for the hold-up. Coronavirus: did diplomatic tensions scuttle China-Canada vaccine trial? On Tuesday The Globe and Mail reported that CanSino’s chief executive Xuefeng Yu had told the newspaper that bureaucratic delays were to blame for the delay. But the company’s statement on Thursday denied that any of its managers had spoken to the press. CanSino did not respond to requests for comment. Phase three trials for Ad5-nCoV are now under way in Saudi Arabia and Russia. The Chinese military has already approved the use of the vaccine candidate on armed forces personnel.