WINNIPEG Manitoba (Reuters) - Poor global coordination has bogged down Canada’s efforts to deliver its Ebola vaccine to Africa, a Canadian minister said on Thursday, six weeks after Ottawa offered to make a donation to help fight the deadly outbreak.
The Canadian government said it would donate between 800 and 1,000 doses of its VSV-EBOV vaccine to the World Health Organization for use in Africa. The vaccine remains in a government lab as Canadian and WHO officials grapple with logistical and ethical issues.
Canada is “deeply concerned by the inadequate coordination efforts” on Ebola, International Development Minister Christian Paradis said in a speech to the United Nations in New York, adding that he was not singling out any country or organization for blame.
WHO could not be reached for comment.
The country’s chief public health officer, Greg Taylor, said Canada hopes to deliver the vaccine to the WHO within two to three weeks for storage but that when affected people in West Africa would get access to it was unclear.
The vaccine has proven effective in tests on animals, but there is anecdotal evidence that other experimental treatments might not work on a person who first receives the vaccine, Taylor said.
“You want to make sure you’re not doing harm,” Taylor said in an interview. “We don’t know what the right dose is.
“We don’t know if this will actually work in humans.”
According to WHO, Ebola has killed almost 3,000 people since March in five countries: Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Senegal.
Earlier 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.”
“More nations need to contribute critical assets and capabilities, whether it’s air transport, medical evacuation, healthcare workers, equipment or treatment,” he said.
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 such use required informed consent.
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. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has allowed the company to start human testing of the vaccine.
Paradis also said Canada would commit C$30 million (US$27 million) more in humanitarian aid to people affected by the outbreak.
Reporting by Rod Nickel; Editing by Toni Reinhold, Amran Abocar and Steve Orlofsky