World Health Organization (WHO) has announced the production of millions of experimental Ebola vaccine doses by the end of 2015, with “several hundred thousand” being produced during the first half of the new year.
Usually it takes years to produce an experimental test vaccine, however, since WHO is pushing to accelerate its development in response to the largest pandemic in history, drug manufacturers are working to have the vaccines available within weeks.
While Ebola vaccines could be made available to front-line West Africa health care workers by December 2014, WHO cautions that the vaccines are not going to be a “magic bullet” for putting a stop to the Ebola outbreak since there is no proven cure for the virus.
In recent days, a two-year-old girl in Mali has confirmed positive of Ebola after returning from Guinea, the first case in the country. A New York doctor, also returning from a recent trip to Guinea, has also tested positive for the virus.
The two experimental vaccines, produced by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and the Public Health Agency of Canada, are currently being dosage-tested in the UK, Mali and the US with additional trials expected to begin in Europe and Africa.
Once the December results are released, additional trials will move to the Ebola effected countries starting with healthcare workers in Liberia. While there are no plans for mass vaccinations prior to June 2015, WHO says the vaccinations will likely be a key factor to ending the outbreak and are not ruling out the mass vaccination idea.
WHO assistant director, Dr. Marie Paule Kieny, said, “While we hope that the massive response, which has been put in place will have an impact on the epidemic, it is still prudent to prepare to have as much vaccine available as possible if they are proven effective.”
“If the massive effort in response is not sufficient, then vaccine would be a very important tool. And even if the epidemic would be already receding by the time we have vaccine available, the modelling seems to say vaccine may still have an impact on controlling the epidemic.”