About 800 vials of an experimental Ebola vaccine is being shipped Monday from Canada to the U.N. in Geneva as health authorities fight to contain the deadly disease.
The World Health Organization, or WHO, and the affected African countries will decide on the method of distribution and when the vaccine will be used, the Public Health Agency of Canada said in a statement.
The vaccine is undergoing clinical trials on humans at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, just outside of Washington, after it showed promising results in animal testing, the agency said.
“This vaccine, the product of many years of scientific research and innovation, would be an important tool in curbing the outbreak,” the agency’s Dr. Gregory Taylor said, while adding that because "ethical and logistical issues" exists, the agency would work with the WHO to address them.
The “ethical” question is whether to use an experimental drug on human guinea pigs. The Walter Reed results are expected in December.
But the Canadians passed the ball, as it were, to the WHO and the African countries being decimated by the disease, and they will make the decision whether to wait for the test results, conduct more tests on humans or administer the vaccine ahead of results, The Toronto Star reported, Canada’s largest newspaper. Canada donated the vaccine and has also committed $65 million in the battle against the virus.
The vaccine vials are being sent in three separate shipments to avoid an accident and must be kept constantly at a very low temperature, the Canadian government said.
The commercial license for the Canadian vaccine is held by NewLink Genetics Corp., headquartered in the U.S. state of Iowa. The company said it will soon be able to produce tens of thousands of doses of the vaccine. Canada, which has no cases to date of Ebola, will keep about a third for its own use.
Ebola virus disease is a severe disease that causes hemorrhagic fever in humans and animals, and is often fatal as it affects the body’s vascular system – how blood moves through the body – causing internal bleeding and organ failure, the Canadian agency said on its website.