Clinical trials are now starting for an experimental made-in-Canada Ebola vaccine in what Health Minister Rona Ambrose calls “promising and hopeful news” in the fight against the deadly disease.
The first phase of the clinical trial will test the vaccine on a small group of healthy people to assess its safety, help determine proper dosage levels to give people immunity, and identify any side effects.
Part of a process Ambrose said is moving “an unprecedented speeds,” results of the first phase are expected by December, and the hope is the vaccine can be deployed shortly after.
Thousands have died in West Africa during the ongoing Ebola outbreak. “If the Ebola vaccine is shown to be safe and effective, it will stop this devastating outbreak,” Ambrose said.
Ambrose said the vaccine has been “100 per cent effective” in preventing the spread of the Ebola virus when tested on animals.
Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Gregory Taylor stressed that no one will be at risk of getting Ebola during this first phase of clinical trials. “The vaccine does not contain any live Ebola virus,” he said.
Around 40 volunteers will be taking the vaccine and will be monitored by public health professionals for any side effects, he said. They will also be assessed to see how well their immune systems are making antibodies against the Ebola virus.
Taylor explained that when a person takes a vaccine, “it prompts their immune system to start making antibodies” to find and neutralize foreign objects such as viruses.
A small American company called NewLink Genetics holds the licence for the vaccine and will be arranging the human clinical trials, which will be conducted in a lab in Silver Spring, Md.
“This process is moving at unprecedented speeds,” Ambrose said.
NewLink said earlier this month that at least five clinical trials involving the vaccine, known as VSV-EBOV, would soon be underway in the United States, Germany, Switzerland and in an unnamed African country that is not currently battling Ebola.
Ambrose noted the Canadian government has also committed over $35 million in various forms of aid, including a shipment of personal protective equipment last week. This shipment has now arrived in West Africa.
“Canada has long been a world leader in Ebola research,” Ambrose said.
- With files from Toronto Star wire services