Despite a drastic decrease in media coverage surrounding the Ebola virus, the crisis is still raging in a handful of African nations. Now, the first batch of an experimental vaccine is due to arrive in Liberia to combat the deadly outbreak.
The Glaxo SmithKline’s (GSK) vaccine will hopefully curb what the World Health Organization (WHO) has called “the worst Ebola outbreak in history.” The first batch — about 300 vials of GSK vaccine — is expected to arrive in Liberia Friday, according to the British drug maker.
It will be used in the first large-scale vaccine trials in coming weeks, in which healthcare workers helping to care for Ebola patients will be among the first to get it.
Researchers hope eventually to enroll up to 30,000 people in the trial, a third of whom would get GSK’s candidate vaccine.
The vaccine, co-developed by the National Institutes of Health in the United States and Okairos, a biotechnology firm acquired by GSK in 2013, is now being tested in phase I safety trials in Britain, the United States, Switzerland and Mali involving around 200 healthy volunteers in total.
“Initial phase I data…are encouraging and give us confidence to progress to the next phases…which will involve the vaccination of thousands of volunteers, including frontline healthcare workers,” said Moncef Slaoui, GSK’s Global Vaccines chief.
“The vaccine is safe in people,” GSK said. The drug uses a type of chimpanzee cold virus to deliver genetic material from the Zaire strain of Ebola. That strain is responsible for the nearly 9,000 deaths in West Africa since the outbreak started a year ago.
As of January 2015, 21,724 cases have been reported in nine countries.
SOURCE: Reuters | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty