The Canadian government has said it will donate a small quantity of an experimental Ebola vaccine developed in its lab to the World Health Organisation (WHO) for use in Africa.
According to Reuters, this was made known on Wednesday by the country’s Health Minister Rona Ambrose.
The minister explained that the decision to donate the vaccine was propelled by WHO approval to offer untested drugs to people infected by the virus. She said Canadian government will donate between 800 and 1,000 doses of the vaccine, with the final number given dependent on how much Canada holds back for research and clinical trials, adding they will also keep a small amount in case it is needed domestically.
Ambrose further revealed that she has offered the vaccine to Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO.
Explaining further, Dr. Greg Taylor, Deputy Chief Public Health Officer of the Public Health Agency of Canada said the country only has about 1,500 animal doses of the vaccine.
According to him, the vaccine which was invented few years ago would need four to six months to make a large quantity. He revealed that the government’s vaccine is different from the treatment being developed by Canada’s Tekmira Pharmaceuticals Corp.
“We see this as a global resource, something we need to put on the global table to say … how can we make best use of this asset? We’re looking to do that as fast as we can” Taylor said.
Taylor disclosed that the vaccine which was licensed for commercialisation to US firm BioProtection Systems, a unit of Newlink Genetics, has proven effective in animals but has never been tested in humans.
He said John Eldridge, the chief science officer of Profectus BioSciences of Tarrytown, New York, has tested its Ebola vaccine in monkeys and got good results but still contemplating whether to use an experimental drug on humans.
“You really don’t know how safe it is, you don’t know what the side effects are going to be. But in this extraordinary circumstance in Africa right now, we’re trying to do everything we can to assist” he said.
Taylor said further revealed that the first doses in Africa would likely be available to health care workers.
Meanwhile, the Public Health Agency of Canada was also involved in the development of ZMapp, an experimental Ebola treatment licensed by US firm Mapp Biopharmaceutical that has been used to treat two infected American aid workers.
Ebola which broke last month in Nigeria has reportedly claimed the lives of 1,013 people, with majority of the victims from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
It would be recalled that a US company on August 12, 2014, announced that all available supplies of an experimental drug for treating deadly Ebola virus have been sent for free to West Africa.