Samples of the vaccine candidate have not been approved for shipment to Canada by Chinese customs, one of the researchers confirmed Tuesday

Canada’s first big push for a COVID-19 vaccine may be falling victim to sour relations with Beijing, as Chinese officials continue to hold up a shipment of the drug needed to carry out promised human trials here.

CanSino Biologics of Tianjin, China signed an accord with the federal government in May to have its vaccine tested in Canada, a heavily promoted deal the government said could give Canadians early access to the serum.

“It’s likely that the shipment is being delayed as part of China’s retaliation against Canada over the Meng (Wanzhou) arrest,” he said, referring to the Huawei Technologies CFO held in Vancouver on a U.S. extradition request.

“But it could also be due to the kind of sudden, unexplained delay that routinely happens when you’re dealing with China’s opaque and often uncooperative customs authorities,” Mulroney added. “Either way, it raises the question of why the NRC thought it was a good idea to work with a Chinese partner on such a sensitive project.”