WHO prepares to launch Ebola vaccine trials

Tensions surrounding the Ebola epidemic raging in west Africa sparked a deadly riot in Sierra Leone as the World Health Organization prepared Wednesday to coordinate clinical trials of an experimental vaccine against the killer virus.

Freetown: Tensions surrounding the Ebola epidemic raging in west Africa sparked a deadly riot in Sierra Leone as the World Health Organization prepared Wednesday to coordinate clinical trials of an experimental vaccine against the killer virus.

Some 1,600 doses of the vaccine arrived in Geneva which the WHO, under fire for what has been seen as a lethargic response to the outbreak, hopes can be fast-tracked into "real-world use".

Meanwhile doctors said today two people died in a riot the day before in eastern Sierra Leone, which erupted when health workers tried to take a blood sample from a 90-year-old woman suspected of having Ebola.

Several buildings were attacked and gangs of youths roamed the streets shouting "No more Ebola!"

Sierra Leone and neighbouring Guinea and Liberia are the epicentre of the Ebola outbreak, the world's worst ever, which has killed more than 4,500 people including a handful outside the region.

Health teams are working desperately to slow the alarming spread of the virus, with experts warning the rate of infections could reach 10,000 a week by early December.

The WHO launched new emergency consultations connecting policymakers and health experts in Geneva and on the ground in west Africa by video and phone.

The third such talks since the WHO declared the outbreak an international crisis in August will likely last two days, with a news conference planned the day after they wrap up.

Some 1,600 doses of the experimental rVSV vaccine against Ebola arrived at the Geneva University Hospital today from Canada.

The WHO is to coordinate trials of the vaccine in Geneva alongside those already under way in Germany, Gabon and Kenya.

The vaccine, developed at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, is one of two experimental Ebola vaccines identified by the WHO as having shown promising results when tested on monkeys.

WHO assistant director general Marie-Paule Kieny said Tuesday the goal was to be able to ship initial supplies to Africa by early 2015, though mass vaccination campaigns are not yet on the cards.

"There is a very strong movement now from governments of many countries to push as quickly as possible these vaccines into real-world use," she said.

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