Ebola vaccine may be tested on public as early as January

Clinical trials on numerous Ebola vaccines are showing promise.
Clinical trials on numerous Ebola vaccines are showing promise. | WHO/M. Missioneiro

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said on Thursday that preliminary trials of an Ebola vaccine may be expanded for public use in West Africa as early as January 2015.

The World Health Agency (WHO) in Geneva recently approved a second trial with an experimental Ebola vaccine created by Swissmedia, a company based in Switzerland that specializes in therapeutic products.

If the trial goes well, healthy volunteers will receive the vaccine. Some of the volunteers will later be sent to West Africa to assist with in battling the Ebola epidemic.

“These trials show an almost unprecedented mobilization on the part of countries, health agencies and industry to pitch in and help to curb the Ebola epidemic,” Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, WHO’s assistant director-general for health systems and innovation, said. “If the vaccines prove to be safe and effective, and we move to production and distribution scale-up, this will be the fastest vaccine roll-out we have had in response to a public health emergency to date.”

Several other potential vaccines and clinical trials of therapeutic blood transfusions are being tested according to WHO guidelines.

As of today, WFP has given 1.3 million people in the Ebola-affected areas of West Africa food assistance. The program will continue increasing humanitarian services to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

After spending three days visiting Sierra Leone, Ertharin Cousin, executive direct of WFP, stressed that worldwide teamwork is necessary to stop the Ebola health crisis.

“What I have learned in Sierra Leone is that the international community has made a lot of progress in meeting the needs of the victims of this crisis,” Cousin said. “But we all have more work to do. We need to scale up, we need to get better, we need to perform faster.”

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