Canada will ship 800 vials of its experimental Ebola virus disease vaccine, VSV-EBOV, to the World Health Organization, Ottawa announced Saturday. The Ebola vaccine will be sent in three shipments. Human clinical trials of VSV-EBOV began Monday after previously being shown effective in other primates.
“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,” Gregory Taylor, Canada’s chief public health officer, said in a statement.
Each shipment of VSV-EBOV will be packed in a special container with dry ice, at a temperature of -80 degrees Celsius, or -112 degrees Fahrenheit. The vaccine was developed at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Canada. The government has licensed the NewLink Genetics Corp. to produce VSV-EBOV in an attempt to help stop the spread of Ebola in West Africa.
The vaccine is a combination of a weakened version of the vesicular stomatitis virus, or VSV, found in animals including cattle and horses, and protein from the Ebola virus. VSV is zoonotic, meaning it can be transferred from animals to humans. Infected humans develop flulike symptoms, according to the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine. The VSV-EBOV vaccine triggers an immune system response that produces antibodies against the Ebola protein, similar to the way a flu shot works.
Clinical trials are under way at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, headquartered in Silver Spring, Md. Results will not be available until December. Canada has been at the forefront of Ebola drug development, with TKM-EBOLA and ZMapp also being developed in Canada with the help of U.S. funding and partnerships. The latter was recently used on the Spanish nurse Teresa Romero, who contracted the virus Oct. 6. Meanwhile, a second vaccine is also in the works in Canada.
“Canada views this experimental Ebola vaccine as a global resource, and, in the interest of global public health, we are sharing it with our international partners to help address the Ebola outbreak in West Africa,” Canadian Health Minister Rona Ambrose said in a statement.
The first shipment of the VSV-EBOV vaccine to WHO in Geneva will be made Monday.