Ebola vaccines may not be available until next year

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A team of volunteers in Gbaneh Bana Village, Port Loko District, Sierra Leone, discussing Ebola prevention with a family. Photo: WHO/S. Gborie

West African countries battling the Ebola disease outbreak will have to wait much longer before they know if vaccines currently undergoing clinical trials are safe for use in humans.

The World Health Organisation says two Ebola vaccines are currently undergoing clinical trials and will not be available for human use until early next year.

WHO says studies are also underway to determine the effectiveness of using blood and plasma donated by Ebola survivors to treat other victims.

Dr Marie Paule Kieny from WHO says although a number of Ebola victims had recovered after undergoing blood transfusion, major questions need to be answered about the safety and efficacy of this treatment method , and the feasibility of its implementation in countries with shattered health systems and an acute shortage of medical staff.

"We might be able to start to use some of these vaccines in affected countries at the beginning of next year in January. This will not be mass vaccinations campaigns, let's be clear about that because the quantity of vaccines which will be available does not make this possible. We will discuss next week with experts what would be the best target in terms of first person to be offered the vaccine. This would be under informed consent. Of course these vaccines would not be licensed, so this is part of the emergency or compassionate use that was described and discussed with experts at the meeting we had in WHO."

The Ebola epidemic ravaging parts of West Africa is the most severe acute public health emergency seen in modern times.

To date, the virus has infected over 6,200 people and killed nearly 3,000 in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Patrick Maigua, United Nations, Geneva.

Duration 1.47″

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