Sustained global cross-sector cooperation is essential to the rapid development and deployment of a vaccine against the Ebola virus, an interim report from an international panel of experts convened by the Wellcome Trust and Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota finds.
The report, Fast-Track Development of Ebola Vaccines: Principles and Target Product Criteria (16 pages, PDF), argues that the substantial scientific, financial, social, and logistical challenges to rapid Ebola vaccine development and deployment can be overcome through collaboration among governments, industry players, and philanthropic organizations. The report lays out a roadmap to that end which details fourteen principles for the development and administration of vaccines, including the need for public-private partnerships and an integrated global funding strategy throughout the different stages of vaccine development, licensure, manufacture, and delivery; the importance of locally adapted community engagement efforts to ensure that vaccine trials and delivery programs are positively received; and the need for multiple vaccines with different characteristics to accommodate different vaccination strategies determined by specific circumstances.
The report also lists minimal and optimal criteria the vaccines must meet to address the current outbreak and prevent future outbreaks, including the need for a single-dose regimen, a 90 percent or better efficacy rate, and a shelf life of at least thirty-six months. A full report will be published later this year.
The release of the report coincides with the World Health Organization's announcement that while the results of small phase I safety trials for two leading vaccines are encouraging, it will be another month or so before researchers are able to determine the size of the dose needed to generate an ideal response. Vaccine efficacy trials will begin within a few weeks in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, the three countries most affected by the current outbreak.
"As Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone make encouraging progress in containing Ebola, we must not lose sight of the immense contribution that a safe and effective vaccine would make towards controlling both this and future epidemics," said Wellcome Trust director Jeremy Farrar, who co-chairs the panel responsible for the report with CIDRAP director Michael Osterholm. "We need urgent global collaboration between governments, industry, and philanthropy to ensure candidate vaccines progress through trials to manufacture and delivery as swiftly as possible."