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WHO announces 'good news' for Ebola vaccine

January 9, 2015

The World Health Organization has said trials for an Ebola vaccine would start in West Africa within a few weeks. Previous lab tests of the GlaxoSmithKline and Merck and NewLink vaccines had shown promising signs.

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Image: Fotolia/St.Op.

Ebola vaccine trials are scheduled to start soon, the head of the World Health Organization's Assistant Director General Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny said on Friday.

In a press briefing, she said there was enough information to conclude that the two leading Ebola vaccines - one made by GlaxoSmithKline and one licensed by Merck and NewLink - were safe and would be trialed in Liberia as early as late January.

Tests on humans in Western research institutions over the past months have shown acceptable results, according to Kieny.

"This is really good news," she said, adding that it would be used on thousands of people.

Additional trials would start in Sierra Leone and Guinea in February.

Kieny added that there were additional vaccines being tested in the United States, Russia and elsewhere.

2014 was the year when "the Ebola virus challenged humanity," Kieny said, adding that 2015 would be remembered as a year when "humanity used our best scientific minds to fight back."

Treatment trials in Britain

Pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson said on January 6 it had started clinical trials in Britain with a special drug that uses a booster from Denmark's Bavarian Nordic biotechnology company. Around 72 healthy volunteers would be involved in the Phase I testing, which test the medicine's safety and indicate whether the human body generates an immune response.

The company said it had produced enough vaccine to treat more than 400,000 people and that the drug could be used for large-scale clinical trials by April. The company added that it could make enough of the drug for 5 million vaccines over a period of 12 to 18 months.

Currently between 100,000 and 12 million doses could be needed to limit the spread of the disease.

Since last February, Ebola has claimed over 8,000 lives and infected over 20,000 people, mostly in the three hardest-hit countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

sb/sms (dpa, AFP, AP)