The Honourable Rona Ambrose, Minister of Health, today announced that the Government of Canada will donate doses of an experimental Ebola vaccine developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada to the World Health Organization (WHO) in its role as an international coordinating body in responding to the ongoing Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The WHO will help to facilitate distribution of the vaccine.
Minister Ambrose spoke to Dr. Margaret Chan, Director General of the WHO, and offered the experimental vaccine as part of Canada’s ongoing commitment to support its international partners in responding to the outbreak.
“Our Government is committed to doing everything we can to support our international partners, including providing staff to assist with the outbreak response, funding and access to our experimental vaccine. Today on a call with Dr. Chan, Director General of the WHO, I was pleased to offer the experimental vaccine developed by Canadian researchers as a global resource to help fight this outbreak”, Ambrose said.
The Government of Canada will be donating between 800 – 1,000 doses to the WHO. The final number of doses provided will be based on the amount required for applied research and clinical trials. Canada will also keep a small supply of the experimental vaccine in the unlikely event it is needed for compassionate use in Canada.
The vaccine, VSV-EBOV, has never been tested in humans, but has shown promise in animal research. Leading scientists at the Agency’s National Microbiology Laboratory developed the vaccine and the Government of Canada owns the intellectual property associated with the vaccine. The Government of Canada licensed the rights to BioProtection Systems to further develop the product for use in humans.
The Government of Canada’s decision to provide doses of the experimental vaccine was informed by its Public Health Ethics Advisory Board, as well as a WHO panel of medical ethics experts. The outcome of the WHO’s panel was a consensus that in response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, it is ethical to offer untested or unproven medical interventions, such as vaccines, with as yet unknown efficacy and adverse effects.
The Ebola outbreak in Africa is the largest on record and comprehensive efforts are required to prevent and control the spread of the virus. While the experimental vaccine is promising, it doesn’t replace the need for rapid diagnosis, good infection control practices and tight coordination among partners involved in the response.
The Minister also announced today that the Agency will provide an additional $185,000 to the WHO to support infection prevention and control, enhanced surveillance and outbreak response capacity in the affected region.
The Agency continues to provide support on the ground to help control the outbreak. Agency scientists have set up mobile laboratories at two sites in the affected regions to provide rapid diagnostic support. A new team will be deployed in the near future to relieve the scientists currently in the field.