Norway is leading the work to develop the world’s first vaccine against the Ebola virus in Guinea, where the epidemic first broke out. The Ebola epidemic is continuing to spread in West Africa. So far, over 15 000 people have been infected with the virus, and it has had an enormous impact on whole societies.
Norway has so far provided over NOK 334 million in funding for international efforts to combat Ebola. It is important to ensure that those infected are given treatment, and to support the poorly developed health services in the affected areas. A crucial part of this work focuses on preventing the further spread of the epidemic, and staving off future outbreaks.
‘We have no time to lose. I am therefore pleased that Norway has very quickly made progress with our proposal to test vaccines in Guinea, where the first Ebola outbreak was recorded in December last year. This is part of Norway’s significant engagement in the fight against Ebola. The development of an effective vaccine would perhaps be the single most important step towards stopping the epidemic once and for all and preventing new outbreaks in the future,’ said Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende.
Mr Brende visited West Africa in October, and saw for himself the massive need for additional health workers, clinics and equipment, as well as for leadership and coordination of the efforts in the formerly conflict-affected countries.
Trials of Ebola vaccines involve a high level of risk, and they need to be conducted in several locations in order to have a reasonable chance of success. While the US has been leading the work to test vaccines in Liberia and Sierra Leone, this work has not yet begun in Guinea.
‘In October, following an enquiry from the World Health Organization, Norway took on responsibility to test vaccines in Guinea. This will be an important contribution to the fight to stop the spread of Ebola. We hope that we will soon have an effective vaccine available for this extremely serious disease,’ said Minister of Health and Care Services Bent Høie.
The World Health Organization and Norway gathered the world’s leading experts on vaccine trials for a planning meeting in November. In less than a month, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Health and Care Services have led the work on the project from developing the concept, to financing, to technical approval. Detailed planning of the trials is now under way, and the aim is to begin the trials in Guinea in early 2015.
Norway has allocated almost NOK 23 million to vaccine development through the Research Council of Norway’s Programme for Global Health and Vaccination Research (GLOBVAC). The project is run by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.