Ebola vaccine: One million doses ready by end of 2015 to tackle spread of deadly virus

WHO says trials could start in West Africa by December

One million doses of an experimental Ebola vaccine will be ready by the end of next year, the World Health Organization (WHO) has announced.

Two experimental vaccines from GlaxoSmithKline and NewLink Genetics are already being tested and a few hundred thousand will be ready for use in West Africa by the middle of 2015.

The WHO has accelerated the process of developing vaccines, which usually take years to produce and test. Trials in West Africa could start as soon as December 2014.

The Geneva-based United Nations health agency confirmed that two leading vaccine candidates are already in human clinical trials, and said another five experimental vaccines were also being developed and would begin clinical trials next year. "Before the end of first half of 2015 […] we could have available a few hundred thousand doses. That could be 200,000 - it could be less or could be more," the WHO's Marie-Paule Kieny told reporters.

Ms Kieny said if those trials prove effective, larger trials testing the vaccines in West Africa could begin as soon as December.

Healthcare workers, who are at the highest risk of contracting Ebola, will be the first to take part in trials.  

Dr Marie Paule Kieny, a WHO assistant director-general, said: "While we hope that the massive response, which has been put in place will have an impact on the epidemic, it is still prudent to prepare to have as much vaccine available as possible, if they are proven effective.

She said vaccines would be a “very important tool” in ending the outbreak of Ebola, which has killed over 4,600 people.

However, Ms Kieny warned that while vaccines could be a good part of the effort to fight the deadly virus, they are not a "magic bullet".

Additional reporting by agencies

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