Scientists warn against complacency on Ebola vaccines

Red cross workers, wearing protective suits, carry the body of a person who died from Ebola, in Monrovia, on January 5, 2015 (AFP Photo/Zoom Dosso) (AFP/File)

London (AFP) - A team of leading international scientists on Tuesday called for new Ebola vaccines to be made available in months rather than years and warned against complacency after a reduction in infection rates.

"Despite falling infection rates in west Africa, the risk that the current Ebola outbreak may not be brought completely under control remains," said Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, Britain's biggest medical charity.

"The accelerated development of candidate vaccines... is essential," said Farrar, who co-chairs a group of 26 international experts on vaccine development.

"We may see an end to this Ebola epidemic within the year if we continue with the current remarkable efforts, but we must not be complacent about the inevitable future epidemics of Ebola and other emerging infectious diseases," he said.

The group was set up in November 2014 by the Wellcome Trust and the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy to monitor global efforts on the challenge of developing vaccines in record time.

In a new report, the group said: "The commercial vaccine manufacturing model is not a good fit for meeting needs to rapidly develop and deploy new vaccines."

It also admitted that recent falls in infection rates in the current outbreak made clinical trials for vaccines "uncertain", but said they should continue to allow for vaccine development in future.

It warned: "The potential for EVD (Ebola Virus Disease) to become endemic... is a real and very concerning possibility".

The Ebola epidemic has affected mainly Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone and has killed nearly 9,000 people since it began more than a year ago.

The Wellcome Trust said earlier this month that clinical trials it was funding for a new Ebola treatment in Liberia were halted by pharmaceutical company Chimerix due to a fall in new cases.