Sept 25 (Reuters) - Poor global coordination has bogged down Canada’s efforts to deliver its Ebola vaccine to Africa, Canadian International Development Minister Christian Paradis said on Thursday.
The experimental vaccine remains in a government laboratory, six weeks after Canada promised to make it available to fight the deadly outbreak.
Canada is “deeply concerned by the inadequate coordination efforts” on Ebola, Paradis said in a speech to the United Nations in New York City, adding that he was not singling out any country or organization for blame.
Ottawa said on Aug. 12 that it would donate between 800 and 1,000 doses of its VSV-EBOV vaccine to the World Health Organization (WHO) for use in Africa. The vaccine was being held at Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg as officials puzzled over how to safely transport it.
“When you talk about the vaccine, that shows that once again, you need a coordinated strategy,” Paradis told reporters.
The Canadian government has previously said it was working with WHO to address complex regulatory, logistical and ethical issues surrounding deployment of the vaccine. One challenge is keeping it cool enough to remain potent.
WHO spokespeople could not be immediately reached for comment.
According to WHO, Ebola has killed almost 3,000 people since March in five countries, including Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Senegal.
Also on Thursday, U.S. President Barack Obama told a meeting on Ebola on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York that there was a “significant gap between where we are and where we need to be” in the international response to the outbreak in West Africa.
“Stopping Ebola is a priority for the United States,” he said. “More nations need to contribute critical assets and capabilities, whether it’s air transport, medical evacuation, healthcare workers, equipment or treatment.”
A WHO panel said last month it was ethical to offer unproven drugs to people in West Africa who are infected by Ebola, or at risk of infection, but it also said using such medicine required informed consent.
Paradis said the formation of a UN emergency response team last week was a step in the right direction to better coordination.
Iowa-based NewLink Genetics Corp holds the commercial license for the Canadian vaccine and said in August that it would be able to produce tens of thousands of vaccine doses within a month or two.
Paradis also said Canada would commit C$30 million (US$27.02 million) more in humanitarian aid to people affected by the outbreak in West Africa through the International Red Cross and other non-governmental organizations.
Canada previously committed about C$5 million to battle the outbreak, which is the deadliest since Ebola was identified in 1976. (1 US dollar = 1.1102 Canadian dollar) (Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Manitoba; Editing by Toni Reinhold)