25 Oct 2014

Plan for Ebola vaccines in 2015 - WHO

10:07 am on 25 October 2014

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says hundreds of thousands of doses of experimental Ebola vaccines will be ready for use by the middle of next year.

Geneva University Hospital receives a batch of experimental Ebola vaccine developed in Winnipeg, Canada.

Geneva University Hospital receives a batch of experimental Ebola vaccine developed in Winnipeg, Canada. Photo: AFP

The European Union has also announced an increase in funding to fight Ebola: it will now contribute $1.25 billion.

WHO Assistant Director-General Marie-Paule Kieny said millions of doses of experimental vaccines would be produced by the end of 2015.

"The pharmaceutical companies developing these vaccines, as well as the ones which are a little bit longer in the development path, are committed to ramping up the production capacity to millions of doses, to be available in 2015, with hundreds of thousands to be ready in the first half of next year."

Vaccines could be offered to health workers on the frontline in West Africa as soon as December 2014, the BBC reported.

However, the WHO cautioned that vaccines would not be a "magic bullet" for ending the outbreak.

There is no proven cure or vaccine for Ebola.

In response to the largest epidemic of the disease in history, the WHO is accelerating the process of vaccine development. It normally takes years to produce and test a vaccine, but drug manufacturers are now working on a scale of weeks.

The WHO's Marie Paule Kieny speaks to media at the UN offices in Geneva.

WHO Assistant Director-General Marie Paule Kieny speaks to media at the UN offices in Geneva in October 2014. Photo: AFP

Two experimental vaccines, produced by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and the Public Health Agency of Canada, are already in safety trials.

The GSK vaccine is being tested in Mali, the UK and the US. Research on the Canadian vaccine is also under way in the US with further trials expected to start in Europe and Africa soon.

The results are expected in December. After that, trials will move to countries affected by Ebola, probably starting with Liberia. That will allow researchers to assess how effective the vaccine is and what dose is needed to provide protection.

The vaccine plan was the culmination of a day of talks at the WHO in Geneva.

As well as the two vaccines already in trials, there are a further five in the pipeline which could yet play a role in the outbreak.

The World Bank and the charity Medecins Sans Frontieres will help finance the vaccine.

All-clear for US patient

Meanwhile, in the US, one of the two American nurses who became infected with Ebola while treating a Liberian man in Texas has been declared free of the disease.

Nina Pham has been released from the specialist hospital in Maryland where she was taken after the Dallas hospital at which she caught the disease failed to cope.

Her colleague remained in isolation and the Liberian man they treated at a Dallas hospital died two weeks ago.

Nina Pham spoke after her release from the specialist hospital in Maryland where she was taken.

"I feel fortunate and blessed to be standing here today. I would first and foremost like to thank God, my family and friends. I am on my way back to recovery even as I reflect on how many others have not been so fortunate."

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio held a news conference this morning to again assure people there is no cause for alarm over the city's first confirmed case of Ebola.

Craig Spencer, a 33-year-old doctor, had recently returned from working with Medecins sans Frontiers in Guinea.

Health officials said Dr Spencer was in isolation and in a stable condition.

Mr de Blasio said Dr Spencer took every effort to reduce contact with other people and sought help as soon as he had symptoms, so there was very little chance of him spreading the virus.

Ebola has now killed almost 5000 people, mostly in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs