WATCH ABOVE: Federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose announces Canada will commit additional $30 million to UN Ebola fight
- 800-1,000 vials of experimental Canadian Ebola vaccine to be sent to Geneva
- Canada not ruling out travel ban from affected countries, says Ambrose
- UN starts training Ebola survivors to help with patients
- WHO admits it botched response to Ebola
- U.S. healthcare worker who handled Ebola lab sample quarantined on cruise ship
- First Dallas nurse diagnosed with Ebola videotaped talking to doctor before transfer
- U.S. Republicans call for travel bans; Obama appoints Ebola ‘czar’
- WHO declares end of Ebola outbreak in Senegal
TORONTO – Federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose announced Friday afternoon that 800 to 1,000 vials of the experimental Canadian Ebola vaccine that had been donated to the World Health Organization (WHO) will be shipped to Geneva on Monday. Clinical trials to determine its safety and appropriate dose will begin in the coming months.
“Canada has been at the forefront of this fight since April, and will continue to play a leadership role,” said Ambrose.
Canada is also donating an additional $30 million–bringing the country’s total contribution to about $65 million–for the international Ebola containment effort. Ambrose said this was in response to an appeal from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for more funding.
The new money will go to WHO, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the World Food Program, UNICEF and the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response, said Ambrose.
The admission on Friday by the WHO in an internal document that it botched attempts to stop the now-spiraling Ebola outbreak in West Africa comes after a week where nurses’ unions across Canada expressed serious concern at the level of preparedness at home.
The UN health agency blamed factors including incompetent staff and a lack of information, while Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions president Linda Silas said the protocols established by scientists and bureaucrats hadn’t yet made it to frontline healthcare staff.
Silas sent letters of concern to Federal Minister of Health Rona Ambrose and Chief Medical Officer at the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) Dr. Gregory Taylor mid-October. Silas said Friday PHAC is in the process of reviewing their Ebola guidelines; her union will be meeting with them on Monday and provide an update then.
“I convened a conference call with health ministers from across the country and I was very pleased to hear they felt ready,” said Ambrose Friday afternoon.
“My message to them was: let’s not just be ready, but feel ready and make sure our frontline healthcare workers have the practical experience of trying the equipment on, doing test runs; they want as much information provided directly to them.”
Ontario hospitals ready: officials
The updated plan includes additional training and support for frontline healthcare workers, including designating 10 hospitals to treat potential cases and requiring two nurses to be assigned to care for each confirmed case at all times.
Personal protective equipment such as bio hazard suits and N95 protective respirators will also be enhanced, the province said.
Ambrose said Ontario’s measures “really set the bar for the country.”
Ontario’s nurses welcomed the updated measures announced Friday, according to a statement from the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO). However, RNAO’s CEO Doris Grinspun said there was still room for improvement, and looked forward to more updates from the province.
“The only area where RNAO remains concerned is that primary care settings — including doctors’ offices, community health centres, NP-led clinics, family health teams, walk-in clinics, and long-term care homes — are not part of the measures announced today,” said Grinspun in the statement.
Ebola survivors trained to help with patient care
The United Nations has begun training survivors of Ebola in Liberia and Sierra Leone to help treat the soaring number of cases in West Africa, now that they are immune to the disease.
UNICEF crisis communications chief Sarah Crowe has been back in New York for a week after five weeks in West Africa, and began a briefing with reporters by announcing her current body temperature and holding up a bottle of hand sanitizer.
She said the new care centres with Ebola survivors can give the love a small child needs to the thousands of orphans left across the region, without the fear that has made life “a very unhuman experience.”
More Canadian aid to Africa: Harper
Prime Minister Stephen Harper told U.S. President Barack Obama in a Thursday phone call that Canada is set to announce new measures in the fight against the disease. Canada’s current commitment is $35 million to WHO, the UN and humanitarian aid groups working in the affected regions of West Africa.
On Friday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told a State Department gathering that world leaders needed to rush more money and supplies to West Africa.
“No one country, no individual group of nations is going resolve this problem by themselves. This is going to take a collective, global response, all hands on deck.”
Dallas healthcare workers: One quarantined on cruise ship, one transferred for treatment
Obama administration officials said Friday a healthcare worker who handled a lab specimen from an Ebola-infected man from Liberia who died of the disease is on a Caribbean cruise ship. The woman has no symptoms—nor has she for 19 days—but has self-quarantined on the ship and is being monitored for any signs of infection.
There have been no restrictions placed on other passengers on the cruise, but the ship had to turn back to Texas after being refused permission to dock in Mexico Friday.
Meanwhile, the first nurse to be diagnosed with Ebola after treating a Liberian man at a Dallas hospital was flown to Maryland Thursday and is now receiving treatment.
Nina Pham was recorded saying “I love you guys” to her treating physician Dr. Gary Weinstein before departing Texas for the National Institute of Health’s Clinical Center near Washington on Thursday. Pham was alert and resting in Washington, where she was listed in “fair” condition Friday afternoon.
Travel ban controversy and U.S. response
Authorities in some African countries have imposed tight air travel restrictions, tougher than those contemplated by the U.S. or British governments.
Ambrose said Friday that Canada has a number of measures in place at airports and is constantly reassessing risks. She said Canada wasn’t ruling out a potential travel ban from affected West African countries.
“If there is a need to look at further options on border measures, we will do that,” she said.
South Africa and Zambia slapped travel and entry restrictions on Ebola-stricken countries. In Zimbabwe, all travellers from West Africa are put under 21-day surveillance. Nigeria initially banned flights from countries with Ebola cases but relaxed the restriction once it felt that airlines were competent to take travellers’ temperatures and follow other measures to prevent people with Ebola from flying.
In Ethiopia, the main international airport in Addis Ababa screens all arriving passengers – including those from Europe and the U.S. – for fever using body scans.
Congressional Republicans are urging the Obama administration to impose a travel ban on West African countries at the epicentre of the Ebola outbreak, but critics say such an approach may not work and could make things worse in affected countries by essentially creating an economic embargo.
On Friday, Obama turned to Ron Klain, a former chief of staff to Vice President Joe Biden, to become his point man on fighting Ebola in the U.S. and abroad. Klain will report to national security adviser Susan Rice and to homeland security adviser Lisa Monaco, the White House said.
Ebola outbreak over in Senegal
In a rare bit of good news, WHO officially declared an end Friday to the Ebola outbreak in Senegal.
Cases are still spreading in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. The Ebola outbreak already has killed 4,546 people in West Africa out of at least 9,191 cases. WHO says within two months, there could be new 10,000 cases of Ebola every week unless stronger measures to fight the outbreak are put into place.
With files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press