WHO: Ebola vaccine ‘should be ready for 2015’

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that an Ebola vaccine should be ready for public use by 2015, but GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is uncommittal on the timing.

There is currently no vaccine or cure for Ebola, which has swept through parts of West Africa and claimed almost 1000 victims since the outbreak began in March. The virus kills up to 90% of people who contract it and has been declared an international public health emergency.

Jean-Marie Okwo Bele, the head of immunisation and vaccines at the WHO, told French radio broadcaster RFI: “Since this is an emergency, we can put emergency procedures in place… so that we can have a vaccine available by 2015.” 

Mr Okwo Bele said that GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) will start trials next month, with the British pharmaceutical giant having initially started its own development of the vaccine in May 2013.

The GSK website states: “We are working with the US National Institutes of Health’s Vaccine Research Center (VRC) to advance development of an early stage vaccine candidate for Ebola. GSK acquired the vaccine candidate when we purchased Okairos in May 2013.

“In collaboration with VRC, we have evaluated this vaccine candidate in pre-clinical studies and we are now discussing with regulators advancing it to a phase I clinical trial programme later this year.”

However, GSK would not commit to the WHO’s speculated timeline. A spokesperson for the pharma giant told The Independent: “It’s too early to speculate on timing. GSK and the VRC appreciate the very serious nature of the current Ebola outbreak, however, our vaccine candidate is at a very early stage of development and is not yet ready for use in these circumstances.”