The experimental Ebola vaccine that Canada promised to ship to West Africa to help fight the epidemic six weeks ago has yet to be shipped to West Africa a, says Dr. Gregory Taylor, the country's new chief public health officer.
The 800 to 1,000 doses of the vaccine, which was developed at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, are ready to be shipped at any time, Taylor said, but the WHO is still trying to figure out where exactly the vaccine should be shipped, how it will get there, including how to keep it refrigerated for the entire trip to West Africa, and who will be responsible for it when it arrives.
"We have such a small amount. Even with 1,000 doses, the number of people with this disease are huge compared to that," Taylor said. "Where should you ship it? How should you ship it? It is a live, atinuated virus, so that means it has to be kept at a certain temperature throughout or it kills the virus and it's inactive.
"You have to have a receiving facility that will receive the vaccine, and then you have to have confirmed consent because this is experimental. So, all of those issues are challenging, and I think it does seem like a long time, I know that, but there's huge issues with this."
Vaccine must go to local health workers
The current Ebola outbreak has infected more than 6,200 people and killed almost 3,000 in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Nigeria and Senegal. Two-thirds of the victims of the virus have been women, who have been disproportionately affected because of their role as caregivers.
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More than 300 of those who have died from Ebola have been health workers treating those infected.
Taylor said one of the conditions of Canada providing the vaccine is that it be made available to local as well as international health workers fighting the epidemic.
"When we put this on the front lines, we're insisting that this be available to all health care workers," Taylor said. "There are other health care workers than just those flying in from developed countries, all the African countries have their own health care workers."
Canada commits $30M more to Ebola fight
On Thursday, Minister of International Development Christian Paradis announced that Canada would be providing $30 million more to the global effort to fight Ebola.
UNICEF Canada was among the organizations that welcomed the announcement
'Support from Canada and other donor countries can’t come quickly enough as the spread of Ebola is outpacing global efforts to combat it.' - David Morley, UNICEF Canada
"Support from Canada and other donor countries can’t come quickly enough as the spread of Ebola is outpacing global efforts to combat it," said David Morley, president of UNICEF Canada.
"New cases are reported every day — and tens of thousands of new cases are expected in the coming months. "
Canada had already pledged $2.5 million worth of medical gear, such as masks, gowns and gloves, to protect health-care workers fighting the outbreak.
A mobile lab staffed by employees from the Public Health Agency of Canada is also based in Sierra Leone to help diagnose cases of Ebola and other infections.
Taylor takes over from Dr. David Butler-Jones, who became a familiar public health spokesman during Canada’s SARS outbreak in 2003.
Butler-Jones, a top HIV researcher, stepped down in March. He suffered a stroke in 2012.
Taylor became the country’s deputy chief public health officer in 2012.
He obtained his medical degree from Dalhousie University in Halifax and completed a residency in family medicine, according to the Public Health Agency.
Taylor’s been involved in a range of federal chronic disease activities, the agency said.