The first doses of an experimental Ebola vaccine developed partly in Canada were injected into the first volunteers in Halifax today.
The small clinical trial is meant to find out whether the vaccine is safe in humans and whether it creates an effective infection-fighting response, according to the Canadian Centre for Vaccinology, where the study is based.
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More than 150 adults offered to take part in the Canadian trial, which had room for 40 participants. The popularity was a surprise to Dr. Scott Halperin, the study’s principal investigator.
"There’s been an extraordinary amount of interest in the study," Halperin said.
Researchers will look at the safety and effectiveness of several different doses of the vaccine. They’ll also monitor participants for side-effects, which are expected to be similar to those associated with flu vaccines.
Emily Sollows, 22, received an injection on Thursday as part of the study.
Sollows said she did a lot of research before applying to participate and was motivated to do her part locally. "I realized that it wasn’t as dangerous as it sounds, Ebola vaccine trials, but my family was pretty mad at me."
The vaccine is made up of a virus usually found in animals such as cattle, horses and pigs. The virus has been changed so that one of its genes has been removed and replaced with an Ebola virus gene. Doctors believe humans can't pass on the modified animal virus to other humans.
The vaccine does not contain the live Ebola virus. Researchers hope the specific Ebola virus protein will trigger our bodies to make antibodies to fight off Ebola virus infection.
"You certainly can’t get Ebola from it. Hopefully, what you do is get protection against Ebola," Halperin said.
Participants randomly receive either the vaccine or a placebo of salt and water. Study results are expected early in 2015.
Another clinical trial of Canada’s Ebola vaccine started in Geneva this month. If the trials are a success, then the vaccine will begin clinical trials in West Africa.
Another Ebola vaccine made by British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline and the U.S. National Institutes of Health is also undergoing clinical trials for safety.