Even as the World Health Organization announced that thousands of experimental Ebola vaccines should be available in the coming months, experts have reached the conclusion that massive amounts of such vaccines and maybe even drugs would be needed to control the outbreak. The reality is that these products are still in the experimental stage and have not been proven safe or effective against the deadly virus which has now crept into the United States. Vaccines for infectious diseases should be clinically tested first to ensure that they are not harmful to people.
According to a WHO official, about 10,000 doses of a vaccine developed by the U.S. National Institutes of Health and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) should be available by the beginning of next year. Human clinical trials have only begun on the GSK vaccine. The Canadian government has developed and donated 800 vials of one vaccine which it licensed to NewLink Genetics Corp, and according to a recent report, the U.S. government is working to help NewLink run clinical trials and increase production. An Ebola vaccine largely developed at Rocky Mountain Laboratories, a federal laboratory in Hamilton, Montana is close to human testing, says the lead researcher on this project.
Experts point out that there are many challenges in the fight against Ebola:
- Initial trials are needed to show that the vaccines are safe to use in people
- It must be determined how much vaccine is required for a protective dose
- Type of trial to test the vaccine effectively
- It must be determined if the vaccines will actually work before spending millions of dollars on them
- The manner in which the vaccine will be delivered and distributed in the affected countries when it becomes available is another impending question
No effort should be spared to test and produce the experimental Ebola drugs as this will encourage those infected to seek treatment.
Information resources on Ebola virus disease including guidelines for laboratories are available at http://www.who.int/csr/resources/publications/ebola/en/.