Ebola vaccine raises hope, but also ethical questions
A Winnipeg-produced Ebola vaccine on its way to West Africa is raising some ethical questions, along with great hope.
The vaccine has not been tested on humans, only monkeys. No one knows what the side effects could be.
And then there's the question of who will be given a dose of the 800 to 1,000 doses being sent.
But the disease has become such an epidemic — blamed for more than 1,000 deaths in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria — an untested hope and nebulous questions are risks many are willing to take, said Dr. Joel Kettner, a medical professor at the University of Manitoba.
"Of course, it's understandable that in that situation people are willing to say, 'look, we'll take more risk. Because the risk of the disease is so high, we're prepared to put up with more risk,'" he said.
"[There is] hope, excitement, great interest in this, but caution also because there's going to be a lot of challenges to do this in a way that's scientifically sound and ethical."
Kettner expects health care workers would be the likely recipients because they are on the front line and can give informed consent.
"It's unlikely that there's going to be enough here even all health care workers if that's who it's given to, let alone consider giving it to people at high risk for the disease," he said.
"So there will be some ethical challenges around how to prioritize and decide who will get the vaccine."
Listen to the full CBC Information Radio interview: "Dr. Joel Kettner – Experimental Ebola Vaccine."