Scientists grapple with ethics in rush to release Ebola vaccines

Sun Sep 28, 2014 9:25am EDT
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* Ebola emergency demands speed, more risk in vaccine tests

* Vaccines will be evaluated at same time as being deployed

* Issues of placebos and control groups need consideration

* WHO sees small-scale vaccine use in W. Africa by Jan 2015

By Kate Kelland, Health and Science Correspondent

LONDON, Sept 28 (Reuters) - Normally it takes years to prove a new vaccine is both safe and effective before it can be used in the field. But with hundreds of people dying a day in the worst ever outbreak of Ebola, there is no time to wait.

In an effort to save lives, health authorities are determined to roll out potential vaccines within months, dispensing with some of the usual testing, and raising unprecedented ethical and practical questions.

"Nobody knows yet how we will do it. There are lots of tough real-world deployment issues and nobody has the full answers yet," said Adrian Hill, who is conducting safety trials on healthy volunteers of an experimental Ebola shot developed by GlaxoSmithKline.

Hill, a professor and director at the Jenner Institute at Britain's University of Oxford, says that if his results show no adverse side-effects, GSK's new shot could used in people in West Africa by the end of this year.   Continued...