Comprised of experts and industry leaders in the field of vaccines, the COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force (VTF) provides invaluable insight, on a volunteer basis, to help the Government of Canada make sound evidence-based decisions to protect the health and safety of Canadians during the pandemic.
To ensure that Conflict of Interest (COI) best practices are followed, while permitting individuals with interests in the proposals before the Task Force to participate, the following protocol will be used to guide member participation:
- Every member will be required to sign a Conflict of Interest and Confidentiality Agreement and to disclose activities and interests that could place them in a COI situation with respect to the work of the Task Force.
- The Task Force will embrace full transparency of declaring interests at its meetings related to any items under discussion so that other members are aware.
- These declarations will be recorded and advice given by the Task Force to Ministers will take note of the relevant interests.
- Any member will appropriately recuse themselves from any active discussion of recommendations in which they have an interest.
- The guiding principles on COI will be periodically reviewed and adjusted to ensure the most objective advice is given.
For the purposes of determining where a real or perceived conflict of interest exists, "interests" are defined by the Task Force as:
- Scientific meaning situations where an individual has a professional scientific interest. This includes situations where the individual has:
- A direct (disqualifying) interest in an application, including where the individual is an applicant, co-applicant, or sponsor of a fellow within the same evaluation round and/or has been involved in the preparation of an application
- An indirect (non-disqualifying) interest in an application, including where the individual holds or is currently seeking funding for research on the subject matter; is a direct competitor of the applicant(s); is a current collaborator or has collaborated with any of the applicants in the past three years as evidenced by joint publications or joint grants or is planning to do so; is supervising or has supervised the doctoral work of any of the applicants; has provided a personal recommendation or letter of support to an applicant or has provided advice or input to an application or proposal.
- Financial interest: economic stake or share in a body with an interest in the subject matter. This includes stocks, equities, or bonds; intellectual property rights (royalties, patents, copyright) and any other situation that may result in financial benefit, direct or indirect.
- Member of a managing body or equivalent structure: participation in the internal decision-making (board member, trustee, or director) of a public or private entity with an interest in the subject matter.
- Member of a scientific advisory body: participation in the activities of a scientific advisory body (permanent or ad hoc) managed by a body with an interest in the subject matter.
- Employment: any form of regular occupation or business, part-time or full-time, paid, or unpaid, including self-employment (consultancy), in any body with an interest in the subject matter.
- Ad hoc or occasional consultancy meaning any ad hoc or occasional activity in which the concerned person provides advice or services to a body with an interest in the subject matter. This includes services provided on an honorary basis (for free or without payment of fees).
- Interests of family members and other personal involvement meaning interests in the subject matter held by partners or persons dependent on the individual, as well as close personal ties that may result in bias.
- Other memberships or affiliations: any membership or affiliation not falling under the definitions provided above that is relevant for the purpose of this policy, to any organisation or body with an interest in the subject matter, including professional organisations.
- Other relevant interests meaning any interest not falling under the definitions above and relevant for the purposes of this policy and include:
- Exchange of gifts;
- Provision of travel costs;
- Long-standing scientific, business or personal differences with the applicants;
- Personal relationship with the applicants, including a relative or close friend;
- Close professional affiliation with the applicants, as a result of having in the last six years:
- frequent and regular interactions with the applicants in the course of their duties at their department, institution, organization or company;
- been a supervisor of, or been supervised by, the applicants;
- collaborated, published or shared funding with the applicants, or have plans to do so in the immediate future; or,
- been employed by the institution, organization or company; and/or
- Circumstances in which members feel for any reason unable to provide an impartial review of the application