The World Health Organization (WHO) announced that two promising Ebola vaccines appear safe and could soon be tested in West Africa, as the agency wrapped up an expert meeting in Geneva earlier today.
The UN health agency has been meeting with researchers, regulators, vaccine developers and policy makers since Thursday, discussing vaccine access and financing, and reviewing the current status of clinical trials and plans for Phase II and Phase III efficacy trials.
Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, WHO Assistant Director-General of Health Systems and Innovation, said in a press conference this afternoon in Geneva that so far, the two Ebola vaccines that have already undergone the first phase of testing have an “acceptable safety profile.”
The third phase of testing – which consists of giving the vaccine to healthy volunteers in affected areas – is about to begin. According to a UN spokesperson, research teams have been set up and preparations have been put in place, including special refrigerators for Ebola vaccine tests, in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, the three countries hardest hit by the current unprecedented outbreak.
Recent figures from WHO note some 20,206 confirmed, probable or suspected cases of Ebola and 7,905 reported deaths.
Opening the high-level meeting yesterday, WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan said the participants had given themselves tight deadlines and were moving ahead quickly. “In fact, what you are doing is unprecedented: compressing into a matter of months work that normally takes two to four years, yet with no compromise of international standards of safety and efficacy,” she said.
Also today, the head of the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER), Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, and the UN Special Envoy on Ebola, Dr. David Nabarro, are in Sierra Leone, before heading to Guinea on Sunday.