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Originally published October 27 2014

Ebola vaccine setback? GSK now says it won't be ready until 2016

by J. D. Heyes

(NaturalNews) People around the world hoping for an Ebola vaccine anytime soon will have to wait a couple of more years, according to new reports indicating that Big Pharma corporation GlaxoSmithKline, which is working to develop just such a vaccine, won't have one ready until at least 2016.

The head of vaccine research at GSK, Dr. Ripley Ballou, has said full data on the efficacy and safety of the new vaccine may not even be available until 2015 -- not in time to control the latest outbreak, which is ravaging Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, three West African nations.

As further reported by the website Bidness Etc:

The timing of development and commercialization of an effective Ebola vaccine or drug is very crucial at the moment. The World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that the epidemic has affected over 9,000 people so far, out of which around 4,500 have died. The Organization also expects the number of new cases per week to hit 10,000 soon.

Trials will take 12 months, not 12 years

Prof. Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the researcher who discovered Ebola in 1976, has said he is concerned that the current outbreak could last into next year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also said the virus could eventually spread to more than 1.4 million people, based on current infection rates and projections.

Meanwhile, GSK is moving ahead with plans to compress vaccine trials to just 12 months. Trials, which are currently in progress at the company's research labs outside Brussels, typically take more than a decade to complete.

In fact, the company has already given its experimental vaccine to a number of volunteers working in Africa, as well as in the United States and the UK. In America, GSK is conducting its work in conjunction with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and is currently producing 10,000 doses. Use of these, however, will be contingent upon the success of current clinical trials.

In March, the pharmaceutical giant held talks with the World Health Organization over an accelerated vaccine development schedule, following news that the Ebola virus was implicated in a new outbreak. Both WHO and GSK, however, agreed at the time that accelerated development was unnecessary, because both expected that the outbreak would only last a few months, an estimation that has since proven incorrect.

Ballou has expressed some disappointment over the earlier decision, saying that quicker action should have been prescribed back then. He also said that it is going to take time to examine and analyze past data so a determination can be made regarding an appropriate vaccine dosage and whether it will be effective, Bidness Etc reported, which added:

According to BBC News, Dr. Ballou said that manufacturing vaccine doses that are consistent with general use will take till 2016. This is the reason why GSK's vaccine cannot be considered a primary answer to control the current outbreak, even though ongoing trials will be helpful in the future.

Still, WHO officials said October 21 that the experimental Ebola vaccine could nevertheless be in use in West Africa by January.

Cannot immediately help control the worsening epidemic

"It will be deployed in the form of trials," Dr. Marie Paule Kieny, the WHO's assistant director-general for health systems and innovation, said, as reported by NBC News.

In a news conference where she briefed journalists, Kieny said the January trials would be a continuation of those currently taking place in Europe. "I'm talking about tens of thousands of doses, not millions," she added.

WHO officials say that 1,000 or so people a week are now being infected with Ebola. The organization has previously warned that that number could rise to between 5,000 and 10,000

"The WHO has cautioned that experimental vaccines cannot immediately help to control the worsening epidemic, but could be used to help protect the health workers needed to get it under control," NBC News added.

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