Canada’s delays in shipping Ebola vaccine to West Africa and Minister’s failure to act on Drug Safety

Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP): Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary has just confirmed again that this urgently needed vaccine is still sitting in a Winnipeg lab despite the promises that were made weeks ago to get a vaccine to West Africa. In the meantime, the number of Ebola cases is doubling almost every three weeks.

Rather than passing the buck and trying to blame someone else, we want to know, and could the minister tell us, what steps is she taking now to deliver on Canada’s promise for this vaccine?

Ms. Eve Adams (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health, CPC): Mr. Speaker, everybody understands that the vaccines need to get to the people most affected, but there are logistical issues. In fact, the World Health Organization in discussions with our Chief Medical Officer ascertains that consent needs to be provided. Obtaining this consent is an issue. Ensuring that the vaccines are refrigerated is an issue.

What I can assure the House is that we have donated 800 to 1,000 doses of this vaccine. It is being made available. As soon as the World Health Organization can make use of it, we will ship it.

Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I can say that Canadians expect their government to be proactive, not sitting around waiting. Let us look at drug safety. While the U.S. takes drug safety seriously, this minister has been improvising. Five months ago the U.S. banned imports from Apotex. Health Canada politely asked Apotex to stop and did nothing when it refused. This week Conservatives finally imposed a ban, but then they got the product list wrong.

Could the minister confirm that she was told about the problems with Apotex in April and did nothing, or is she suggesting that she is not responsible for her own department?

Ms. Eve Adams (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health, CPC): Mr. Speaker, we will not tolerate drug safety risks. As soon as Health Canada was made aware of the issues at the plants in India, it acted immediately. A quarantine was put in place. All of the medications were reviewed and now there is an import ban against these medications.

Vanessa’s Law would allow Health Canada to enact tough new fines on companies that put any Canadian lives at risk. It will also allow Health Canada to not have to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies, but to simply ban them.