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Ebola Virus Outbreak 2014 - Vaccine News Updates: WHO Announces Millions of Ebola Vaccines to be Produced by 2015

Ever since the Ebola epidemic took the world by storm, spreading rapidly in the West African triumvirate of Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea (with a few but much talked about cases in Europe and the U.S); international communities have been on a hunt for the panacea that would finally put a stop to the many deaths caused by the disease.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has been doubling its efforts to expedite development and production of Ebola treatments and vaccines that would help mitigate the spread of the illness.

And just today, WHO announced that plans have already been made to speed up the development of "experimental Ebola vaccines" which are targeted to be deployed to West Africa beginning mid-2015.

WHO is looking at hundreds of thousands of doses, with at least seven vaccine candidates under development and trial. As early as December 2014, the vaccines are eyed for administration to health workers in West Africa.

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Marie-Paule Kieny, WHO assistant director general for health systems and innovation, said, "Before the end of the 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 Vaccine Candidates

Among those lined up for human clinical trials are the ones produced by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and the Public Health Agency of Canada.

According to Newsweek, the GSK vaccine is already being tested in Mali, the UK and the US, while research on the Canadian vaccine is under way in the US. The other five experimental vaccines are also being developed and will undergo clinical trials next year.

Trials are targeted to be brought to countries affected by Ebola after the clinical trials in the US and other countries, the WHO said, also to assess the effectiveness and proper dosage of the vaccines.

Kieny explained, "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."

"If the massive effort in response is not sufficient, then vaccine would be a very important tool.... And even if the epidemic would be already receding by the time we have vaccine available, the modelling seems to say vaccine may still have an impact on controlling the epidemic," she added as the WHO sees the relevance of being prepared for Ebola, whatever the trend in outbreak is.

The preparation for the Ebola vaccine is not hampered by lack of funding as the World Bank and the charity Medecins Sans Frontieres have pledged to finance the vaccine.

In a report from BBC News, Dr Marta Tufet, from the Wellcome Trust said, "I think we've made some majors steps forward; it's been a very significant meeting. The key news is that money doesn't seem to be an issue. Everyone's supporting this and it's a case of making sure we're prepared."

"The standard method of public health control will win in the end, but a vaccine could have a very strong impact on the current epidemic," she added.

Meanwhile, talks on the creation of indemnity for companies are ongoing in case people would have adverse reactions to the new Ebola shots. This is since the usual years-long process of safety testing had to be shortened to month out of the urgency of the scenario.

With concerted efforts from among international organizations, affluent countries, pharmaceutical companies, and governments from around the world, it is possible indeed that the long-evasive treatment and prevention for the much-feared Ebola be finally released and deployed by the millions in countries most vulnerable and with least capability to allay the spread of the disease.

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