A fast-tracked study conducted in Britain to assess the safety of an experimental Ebola vaccine is expected to complete its first phase of testing by early December, the project leader said Wednesday.
The pace of the trial, which began on Sept. 17, has been dictated by the alarming spread of the deadly virus, said Professor Adrian Hill, a researcher and director of the Jenner Institute at the University of Oxford. He and his team are conducting tests on healthy volunteers of the Ebola vaccine developed by drug firm GlaxoSmithKline with the National Institutes of Health.
“The objective of this vaccine isn't to have it sold — it’s to have it deployed and used in a sort of emergency relief setting in the three afflicted countries in West Africa,” Hill said.
The volunteers chosen for the trials are healthy individuals between the ages of 18 and 50, he said. Each is given a dose of the vaccine at the beginning of the trial, which is followed by nine check-up visits over a six-month period. This monitoring phase includes physical exams, blood tests and the assessment of any symptoms, Hill said. Participants are also required to keep diaries and answer daily questions about their health.
The risks associated with the tests are low, Hill said, adding that minor side effects such as flu-like symptoms could be expected.
Ruth Atkins was the first British volunteer to receive the vaccine on Sept. 17. "I volunteered because the situation in West Africa is so tragic and I thought being part of this vaccination process was something small I could do to hopefully make a huge impact," Atkins told Oxford University at the time.
The Ebola outbreak has killed at least 3,879 people, mostly in the African countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, according to the latest data from the Word Health Organization.
—Becky Bratu and Emmanuelle Saliba