Health

Canada to ship Ebola vaccine to WHO

  • 19 October 2014
  • From the section Health
Ebola vaccine prepared for shipping to the WHO Image copyright Public Health Agency of Canada
Image caption The effectiveness of the Canadian vaccine in humans is not yet known

Canada is to ship 800 vials of its Ebola vaccine to the World Health Organization.

The jab can completely protect animals from a fatal dose of the Ebola virus. However, its safety and effectiveness in humans is unknown.

Trials began in the US this week and the WHO will conduct further tests in Europe and Africa.

The Public Health Agency of Canada said the vaccine could be an "important tool in curbing the outbreak".

The recent Ebola outbreak - the largest in history - has killed more than 4,500 people in West Africa.

By December, up to 10,000 people a week could be being infected by the virus, the WHO says.

There is no cure or proven vaccine, but a number of experimental approaches are being rushed through.

Ebola deaths

Figures up to 13 January 2016

11,315

Deaths - probable, confirmed and suspected

(Includes one in the US and six in Mali)

  • 4,809 Liberia

  • 3,955 Sierra Leone

  • 2,536 Guinea

  • 8 Nigeria

Getty

The Canadian vaccine, developed by the public health agency of Canada's National Microbiology Laboratory, combines fragments of Ebola virus with a non-fatal virus.

It should be enough to trigger the immune system to produce antibodies to attack Ebola, protecting against future infection.

'Ethical issues'

Clinical trials have started at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in the US but results are not expected until December.

Canada will begin shipping the 800 vials on Monday.

They will be sent in three batches as a precautionary measure. The vaccine must be packed in dry ice and kept at -80C in order to remain viable.

Further trials will take place in Germany, Switzerland and countries in Africa not hit by the Ebola outbreak.

Dr Gregory Taylor, the chief public health officer of Canada, said: "This vaccine, the product of many years of scientific research and innovation, could be an important tool in curbing the outbreak.

"We will continue to work closely with the WHO to address some of the ethical and logistical issues around using this experimental vaccine in the fight against Ebola."

Around a third of the total stocks of the vaccine will be kept in Canada for research or "compassionate use", the Canadian government said.

A separate vaccine is already being trialled in the US, UK and Mali.

Image copyright NIH/SPL
Image caption GSK says its vaccine will come too late for the current outbreak

It is being made by GlaxoSmithKline, which has warned the vaccine will "come too late" for the current epidemic.

Dr Ripley Ballou, the head of GSK's Ebola vaccine research, said full safety and effectiveness data would not be ready until late 2015.

"At the same time we have to be able to manufacture the vaccine at doses that would be consistent with general use, and that's going to take well into 2016 to be able to do that," he added.

"I don't think this can be seen as the primary answer to this particular outbreak."

Ebola facts
People can catch Ebola if they are in direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person or animal
Early symptoms include fever, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhoea and bleeding, sometimes from the eyes and mouth
The current outbreak started in March in west Africa, where the worst-affected countries include Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia
It is thought unlikely that the disease would spread if it did come to the UK because quarantine and communications are more developed than in parts of western Africa
There is no licensed Ebola vaccine but treatments are in development
INTERACTIVE
  • Protective Ebola suit

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  • Surgical cap

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    The cap forms part of a protective hood covering the head and neck. It offers medical workers an added layer of protection, ensuring that they cannot touch any part of their face whilst in the treatment centre.

  • Goggles

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    Goggles, or eye visors, are used to provide cover to the eyes, protecting them from splashes. The goggles are sprayed with an anti-fogging solution before being worn. On October 21, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced stringent new guidelines for healthcare personnel who may be dealing with Ebola patients. In the new guidelines, health workers are advised to use a single use disposable full face shield as goggles may not provide complete skin coverage.

  • Medical mask

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    Covers the mouth to protect from sprays of blood or body fluids from patients. When wearing a respirator, the medical worker must tear this outer mask to allow the respirator through.

  • Respirator

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    A respirator is worn to protect the wearer from a patient's coughs. According to guidelines from the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), the respirator should be put on second, right after donning the overalls.

  • Medical Scrubs

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    A surgical scrub suit, durable hospital clothing that absorbs liquid and is easily cleaned, is worn as a baselayer underneath the overalls. It is normally tucked into rubber boots to ensure no skin is exposed.

  • Overalls

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    The overalls are placed on top of the scrubs. These suits are similar to hazardous material (hazmat) suits worn in toxic environments. The team member supervising the process should check that the equipment is not damaged.

  • Double gloves

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    A minimum two sets of gloves are required, covering the suit cuff. When putting on the gloves, care must be taken to ensure that no skin is exposed and that they are worn in such a way that any fluid on the sleeve will run off the suit and glove. Medical workers must change gloves between patients, performing thorough hand hygiene before donning a new pair. Heavy duty gloves are used whenever workers need to handle infectious waste.

  • Apron

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    A waterproof apron is placed on top of the overalls as a final layer of protective clothing.

  • Boots

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    Ebola health workers typically wear rubber boots, with the scrubs tucked into the footwear. If boots are unavailable, workers must wear closed, puncture and fluid-resistant shoes.

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