'Realistic' to expect Ebola vaccine by 2015: WHO (Update)

August 9, 2014

Clinical trials of vaccines for the deadly Ebola virus should soon get underway and will likely be ready for widespread use by early next year, the World Health Organization said Saturday.

"I think it's realistic," Marie-Paule Kieny, assistant director-general of the UN health agency, told AFP.

There is currently no available cure or vaccine for Ebola, one of the deadliest viruses known to man, but Kieny said she expected a vaccine to be rushed through the trial process and become available by 2015.

Her colleague Jean-Marie Okwo Bele, who is vaccine chief at WHO, told French radio RFI earlier Saturday that British pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline appeared set to start clinical trials of a vaccine next month.

He also said he was optimistic about making the vaccine commercially available.

"Since this is an emergency, we can put emergency procedures in place ... so that we can have a vaccine available by 2015," he said.

Kieny acknowledged however that any vaccine rushed to market to help stem the epidemic, which has already claimed nearly 1,000 lives in west Africa, would not be tested as rigorously as other vaccines and drugs.

"Will it have been tested as well as other vaccines we put out in the field? No, absolutely not. That would be impossible," she said, a day after the WHO declared the epidemic an international health emergency.

The bar would likely be lowered to enable a vaccine to go to market after showing good results and safety in only a small number of people, as well as recording good data in primates, she said.

The WHO, Kieny said, was "engaging with quite a number of developers ... to see what we can do to help accelerate and facilitate the development."

It was especially important to speed up government authorisation of phase-one trials, which in Africa can often take months, she said.

Zmapp vaccine 'promising'

"We hope that because of the emergency this won't be treated as just any other drug or vaccine," she said.

Tests still need to be carried out in carefully controlled environments, to allow researchers to spot possible adverse effects and avoid wide distribution of unsafe drugs, she said.

"And if we just go blindly, in the end we won't know if (the vaccines or treatments) were useful or not," she added.

Several vaccines are being tested, and a treatment made by San Diego-based Mapp Biopharmaceutical, ZMapp, has shown promising results on monkeys and may have been effective in treating two Americans recently infected in Africa.

The use of the experimental drug has sparked an ethical debate about whether it is justifiable to use untested drugs, and if so, who should be treated.

Kieny, who will be hosting a WHO meeting on the issue on Monday, said ZMapp appeared "promising".

The problem, she said, was that there are no more than around a handful of the treatments available and it could prove difficult to scale up production.

"The good news is that it seems to work. The bad news is that it's not there for the time-being," she said.

Kieny, who headed WHO's vaccine division during the H1N1 swine flu pandemic in 2009, is acutely aware that helping rush a vaccine to market can cause controversy.

In 2009, WHO was accused of helping line the pockets of the pharmaceutical companies that profited from the swine flu vaccine.

"People might accuse us of playing with the industry, but all things considered, I would prefer to be criticised for a conflict of interest—which there definitely is not—than to be criticised for doing nothing," Kieny said.

Explore further: WHO holds emergency Ebola meeting

Related Stories

WHO holds emergency Ebola meeting

August 6, 2014
The World Health Organization on Wednesday began a two-day emergency meeting on west Africa's Ebola epidemic, with the UN agency deciding whether to declare it an international crisis.

Biodesign researcher helped develop tobacco-based platform for Ebola vaccine development

August 6, 2014
Charlie Arntzen has worked tirelessly on new platforms to deliver vaccines. He has focused on plant-based vaccine delivery systems, testing a wide range of plants as possible "manufacturing platforms" for vaccines for the ...

WHO calls ethics meeting over experimental Ebola drug

August 6, 2014
The World Health Organization said on Wednesday it was convening an ethics meeting next week to explore the use of experimental treatment in the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

Experimental Ebola drug is hard to make, expert says

August 5, 2014
An experimental drug given to two American patients with Ebola is made from tobacco leaves and is hard to produce on a large scale, a leading US doctor said Tuesday.

NIH's Fauci says vaccine for Ebola not far away

August 4, 2014
The nation's top infectious disease official says there's hope that a vaccine against Ebola will be available as early as next July.

Ebola outbreak speeds up efforts to find a vaccine

August 1, 2014
There is no vaccine on the world market to protect against the deadly Ebola virus, but experts say the fast-growing outbreak in West Africa is speeding efforts to test one.

Recommended for you

Flu may be spread just by breathing, new study shows; coughing and sneezing not required

January 18, 2018
It is easier to spread the influenza virus (flu) than previously thought, according to a new University of Maryland-led study released today. People commonly believe that they can catch the flu by exposure to droplets from ...

New approach could help curtail hospitalizations due to influenza infection

January 18, 2018
More than 700,000 Americans were hospitalized due to illnesses associated with the seasonal flu during the 2014-15 flu season, according to federal estimates. A radical new approach to vaccine development at UCLA may help ...

Certain flu virus mutations may compensate for fitness costs of other mutations

January 18, 2018
Seasonal flu viruses continually undergo mutations that help them evade the human immune system, but some of these mutations can reduce a virus's potency. According to new research published in PLOS Pathogens, certain mutations ...

Zika virus damages placenta, which may explain malformed babies

January 18, 2018
Though the Zika virus is widely known for a recent outbreak that caused children to be born with microencephaly, or having a small head, and other malformations, scientists have struggled to explain how the virus affects ...

Study reveals how MRSA infection compromises lymphatic function

January 17, 2018
Infections of the skin or other soft tissues with the hard-to-treat MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) bacteria appear to permanently compromise the lymphatic system, which is crucial to immune system function. ...

Fresh approach to tuberculosis vaccine offers better protection

January 17, 2018
A unique platform that resulted in a promising HIV vaccine has also led to a new, highly effective vaccine against tuberculosis that is moving toward testing in humans.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) Aug 09, 2014
Scenario - terrorists kidnap infected and move them to neutral countries. A pool of infected martyrs is created who board planes for western airports. There they meet up with indigenous martyrs who are themselves infected and who proceed to spread contamination at bus and air terminals, sporting events, concerts, and so forth. The result?
https://www.youtu..._NVi-TC4
https://www.youtu...dt7z_WP8

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.