Ebola Vaccine Trials May Give Placebo to Those at Risk

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

As global health officials rush to begin human trials of two promising Ebola vaccines in West African medical workers, a daunting question remains unanswered: Who gets the placebo injection?

If all workers get the vaccines, doctors may never know how well they work. That’s because the results might also be affected by other factors best measured with the use of a placebo shot in some participants. Yet giving some medical workers a placebo means they will face close exposure to one of the world’s deadliest diseases with no more protection than before the trial began.

The dilemma, unique in vaccine development, is generating furious debate between infectious disease experts. Either way, scientists hope that once they confirm the safety of vaccines developed by GlaxoSmithKline Plc (GSK) and NewLink Genetics Corp. (NLNK:US), the shots can help stem an epidemic that’s killed more than 3,400 people in West Africa. A decision on the design of the trial is pending, health officials said.

Source: Bloomberg Businessweek (link opens in a new window)

Health Care
infectious diseases, vaccines