Saturday, January 10, 2015

Ebola vaccine will soon be tested in West Africa

Richard Harris at NPR's "Goats and Soda" blog: Ebola vaccine developers are on track to start testing their products in West Africa in about a month, the World Health Organization said at a press conference today. And it's a race against the clock — testing will become more challenging if the number of new Ebola cases continues to drop.

Two vaccines have already passed the preliminary safety trials — one from GlaxoSmithKline and a second being developed by Merck and a small biotech company called NewLink Genetics. The
next step is to find out whether either or both will actually protect people from this deadly disease.

Testing has been a delicate subject, because the most effective tests involve a comparison group that will not receive an actual vaccine – at least not right away. Some people object to tests like this because they feel they are being exploited as experimental subjects.

But vaccine organizers hope they've found a way to involve West African citizens without alienating them. Liberia, Sierra Leona and Guinea each have different testing strategies, Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, Assistant Director-General at the WHO, said at a news conference Friday.

Liberia's current plan is to test both vaccines in a head-to-head trial, and have a third group that will receive a placebo shot. Each of the three groups will include 9,000 volunteers. That test could start as early as the end of January, Dr. Kieny says....

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