Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Safety Data Expected in Nov., Ebola Vaccines May Be Used before End of 2014

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Safety Data Expected in Nov., Ebola Vaccines May Be Used before End of 2014

Article excerpt

Ebola vaccines may be used before end of year

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TORONTO - Experimental Ebola vaccines may be ready to be used before the end of 2014, the World Health Organization revealed Friday.

The global health agency said data from the first safety studies in humans of two experimental vaccines should be available by November, opening the door to their use initially in health-care workers tending the sick.

The word came after a two-day meeting in which nearly 200 scientists, ethicists, public health experts and representatives of drug regulatory bodies looked at the experimental drugs and vaccines in development and made recommendations on how and in whom they should be used in this outbreak, the largest on record.

The absence of treatment options has fed the panic associated with Ebola outbreaks, said Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, the WHO's point person for the effort to push these products out of laboratories and into the field.

"We have to change the sense that there is no hope in this situation to a realistic hope," Kieny, the WHO's assistant director general for health systems and innovation, said at a news conference in Geneva.

To date the months-long outbreak has claimed an estimated 1,850 lives, and infected nearly 3,700 people in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria and Senegal.

The meeting determined the first priority -- which reflects the limits of the supplies of the experimental drugs and vaccines -- is to try treating Ebola patients with the blood of Ebola survivors. While evidence on the effectiveness of this approach in Ebola is limited, so-called convalescent sera has been shown to work in some other diseases and Kieny said it was a consensus of the meeting that the approach has a good chance of being effective.

The idea behind the approach is that the blood of survivors contains antibodies that should help fight the onslaught of the disease. She said work is already underway to help affected countries roll out such programs safely, noting one silver lining of the dark cloud of this outbreak is that the huge numbers of cases are generating a growing pool of survivors from whom to seek blood donations. …

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