Canadian experimental Ebola vaccine vials arrive in Geneva

The first 250 vials of Canada's experimental Ebola vaccine arrived in Geneva on Wednesday for clinical trials that could start next month.

Travellers from the three West African countries expected to check in with U.S. health officials for 21 days

Dr. Felicity Hartnell of Oxford University injects former nurse Ruth Atkins, the first of 60 healthy volunteers in the U.K. to receive an experimental vaccine against Ebola in September. It is one of two lead vaccines that the World Health Organization flagged for potential use for the outbreak in West Africa. (Steve Parsons/Associated Press)

The first 250 vials of Canada's experimental Ebola vaccine arrived in Geneva on Wednesday for clinical trials that could start next month.

The federal government said it would provide 800 vials of the vaccine, called rVSV-EBOV, in August.

It is one of two lead vaccines that the World Health Organization flagged for potential use for the outbreak in West Africa.

The UN health agency said Wednesday that a total of 9,936 cases of Ebola virus disease have been reported in five affected countries up to the end of Oct. 19, although there is widespread under-reporting in Liberia. A total of 4,877 deaths have been reported.

Dr. Marie Paule Kieny, an assistant director general for the UN health agency, acknowledged Tuesday that many "ifs"remain about the experimental vaccines.

The first human trials of the Canadian vaccine began in Bethesda, Md., last week. Four more, in Germany, Switzerland, Gabon and Kenya, are expected to start in the next few weeks. 

Kieny said that about 250 people will be enrolled in these Phase 1 trials that are designed to show whether a vaccine is safe to use in people and what protective dose is needed.

The CEO of the company that holds the licence for the Canadian-made Ebola vaccine said a batch is nearly ready and it is working with two manufacturers in Europe to produce more.

The company expects to have between 60,000 and 70,000 vials of VSV-EBOV by the end of the year, Dr. Charles Link,
CEO and chief scientific officer of NewLink Genetics, of Ames, Iowa, said. 

"We couldn't go any faster without really doing things dangerously," Link told the Canadian Press.

"I don't think humanity has ever tried to do something this complex, to be quite honest."

WHO plans to start large-scale vaccine trials in West Africa in January 2015.     

The other candidate vaccine, by British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and the U.S. National Institutes of Health, is known as cAd3-ZEBOV. It is from a modified chimpanzee cold virus and an Ebola protein. It is in clinical trials now in Britain and in Mali.

State and local health officials in the U.S. will check travellers from Ebola-affected West African countries of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone daily for temperature for a 21-day period. (Abbas Dulleh/ Associated Press)

Elsewhere on Wednesday, WHO started its third emergency committee meeting to evaluate the Ebola outbreak and its response. The one-day meeting is expected to assess whether current recommendations need to be updated following infections in health-care workers who were exposed in Spain and the U.S.

In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday announced new measures to monitor for Ebola anyone entering the United States from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea for a 21-day period.

Under the measures starting Monday, travellers from the three West African countries will be expected to check in with health officials every day and report their temperatures and any Ebola symptoms throughout the 21-day period, the CDC said.

The director of CDC said the program will cover visitors as well as aid workers, journalists and other Americans returning from Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea.

The program will start in six states: New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey and Georgia.

"The bottom line is that we have to keep our guard against Ebola," CDC Director Tom Frieden said.

Travellers from those countries will be given information cards and a thermometer and be required to make daily check-ins with state or local health officials to report their status.  He said the check-ins could be in person, by telephone, Skype or Facetime or through employers — CDC was consulting with the state and local officials to help them work that out.

Affected travellers would be required to report any travel plans. Frieden said if they don't cooperate, they would be immediately called in.

Elsewhere in the U.S., a video journalist has recovered from Ebola and hospital officials in Omaha say he's been released.

Nebraska Medical Center officials say Ashoka Mukpo was released around 9 a.m. Wednesday from the hospital's biocontainment unit. In a statement read at a news conference later, Mukpo said: "Today is a joyful day."

Mukpo, of Providence, Rhode Island, contracted the virus while working in Liberia as a freelance cameraman for NBC and other media outlets.

With files from Reuters, The Canadian Press and The Associated Press


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