Geneva University Hospital (HUG) is beginning clinical trials today (10 November 2014) of a new Ebola vaccine (VSV-ZEBOV) after receiving the green light from the Swiss Agency for Therapeutic Products (Swissmedic) last Thursday. Ethics committees from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Canton of Geneva have also approved the trials.
Two different doses of the vaccine as well as a placebo will be tested on 115 volunteers who will be paid CHF 810. Some of the volunteers are medical staff who will shortly be deployed to West Africa.
This is the second Ebola vaccine that is considered safe enough to be tested in humans. The Lausanne University Hospital received the green light to begin testing the chimpanzee adenovirus vaccine (chAd3) late last month.
According to the WHO, scientists at the Public Health Agency of Canada, have developed the vaccine. It is based on the virus that causes vesicular stomatitis, a disease that affects animals. Scientists weakened and genetically modified the virus to express the glycoprotein of the Zaire Ebola virus (ZEBOV) thus provoking an immune response against real Ebola viruses.
The WHO has stated that if the vaccine is judged safe, large-scale trials of the vaccine could begin in hard-hit West African countries as early as January 2015.
“These trials show an almost unprecedented mobilization on the part of countries, health agencies and industry to pitch in and help to curb the Ebola epidemic,” says Dr Marie-Paule Kieny, Assistant Director-General for Health Systems and Innovation at WHO.
“If the vaccines prove to be safe and effective and we will scale-up to production and distribution, this will be the fastest vaccine roll-out we have had to date in response to a public health emergency.”
Learn more about the global fight against Ebola at the WHO’s Global Alerts and Response website.
Edna Ayme is a writer and corporate communications specialist living in Geneva.