The experimental Canadian Ebola vaccine that has been donated to the World Health Organization will be shipped to Geneva on Monday, the agency said today.
The final legal agreement was signed earlier this week and now the WHO will take possession of the 800 to 1,000 vials of the vaccine. However, Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, the WHO's assistant director general for health systems and innovation, says it is too difficult to ship it over the weekend.
"It is dangerous to ship it over the weekend because you don't know if the customs — not everybody is there. The pharmacy at the hospital who will store the vaccine for us is closed on Sunday," Kieny told CBC News.
"So what we have arranged is to send it immediately after the weekend on Monday."
The clinical trials on the vaccine will start late October or early November, to determine if it is safe to use in humans and if so, what the dosage should be.
Kieny said the WHO has 250 people ready to begin clinical trials in four locations: Switzerland, Germany, Gabon and Kenya.
The WHO hopes that by early December it will have all the information it needs about any potential side-effects of the vaccine. If results come back safe, clinical trials will continue with front-line health-care workers in the three West African countries most affected by Ebola.
Public Health Agency of Canada scientists invented the vaccine, called VSV-EBOV, and Health Minister Rona Ambrose announced on Aug. 12 the government would donate the experimental vaccine. Canadian officials have been waiting for word from the WHO to ship the vials.
The agency says the vaccine vials are being sent from Winnipeg to the University Hospital of Geneva by air in three separate shipments, as a precautionary measure, due to the challenges in moving a vaccine that must kept at a very low temperature at all times.
The WHO recently purchased a refrigerator to store the vials in Geneva. The vaccine must be kept at –80 C.
Dr. Gregory Taylor, Canada's chief medical officer of health, isn't ruling out a clinical trial of the experimental vaccine here in Canada, but had no information when that might begin.
"That's still in the works. We're working with a number of partners and once that's confirmed, we will announce that," Taylor told reporters at a press conference in Toronto.