WHO eyes mass Ebola vaccines by mid-2015

WHO eyes mass Ebola vaccines by mid-2015

GENEVA, Switzerland - Hundreds of thousands of Ebola vaccine doses could be rolled out to west Africa by the middle of next year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said Friday, after new cases of the killer virus were reported in New York and Mali.

"All is being put in place to start efficacy tests in the affected countries as early as December," WHO assistant director general Marie-Paule Kieny said, adding that several hundred thousand doses could be available in the "first half" of 2015.

Kieny's comments came after closed-door talks on Thursday to try to find a vaccine to beat the disease that has ravaged Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone and killed almost 4,900 people.

Fears the haemorrhagic virus could spread further were stoked with confirmed cases in New York city and the west African nation of Mali, adding urgency to the hunt for a cure.

"A vaccine is not the magic bullet, but when ready, it may be a good part of the effort to turn the tide of the epidemic," Kieny said.

'Real-world' tests

Hopes are centred on experimental vaccine rVSV, with doses arriving in Geneva for a new round of trials, and ChAd3, made by British company GlaxoSmithKline.

There are five other potential vaccines in the pipeline, Kieny said.

Whichever proves its mettle in trials, WHO hopes to send huge numbers of doses to Africa for "real-world" tests.

There is currently no licensed cure for Ebola, which is transmitted through close contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person or someone who has died from the disease.

New York on Thursday confirmed the city's first case of Ebola, with a doctor testing positive after returning from treating patients in Guinea, the epicentre of the world's worst outbreak of the disease.

Craig Spencer was placed in isolation at Manhattan's Bellevue Hospital Center, officials said.

In Mali, health authorities said a two-year-old girl who travelled to neighbouring Guinea with her grandmother, had tested postive.

The toddler's condition "is improving thanks to early intervention", Health Minister Ousmane Kone said in a television interview.

The WHO - which said this week the spread of the virus remains of "great concern" - said the local authorities were tracing everyone who had contact with the girl and her grandmother, with 43 people put under observation.

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