Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Oxford Ebola vaccine trial should receive EU funding

Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder has today called for EU funding to help further an Ebola vaccine trial that was launched today in Oxford.

Speaking in a debate at the European Parliament with EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid Kristalina Georgieva, Mrs Bearder said it was important to provide funding to build up stockpiles of the vaccine if the trial is successful.

Mrs Bearder commented:

"This is an important development that could save many thousands of lives. We urgently need a short-term strategy to contain the current Ebola outbreak, but we also need to look at how best to prevent such outbreaks in future, including by building sufficient stockpiles of vaccines.

"That is why I am calling on the EU to provide significant funding for this vital and life-saving research."

A Briton today became the first of 60 healthy volunteers to receive the potential new vaccine for the virus in the trial which is being run by the Jenner Institute at the University of Oxford.

Professor Adrian Hill, director of the Jenner Institute, commented:

"This trial, starting today, shows how rapidly the medical community can respond in a true emergency. We hope that the new vaccine will be ready to help control this major outbreak by the end of the year."

The trial will assess whether those taking part suffer any side effects, but the university stressed that the vaccine did not contain infectious material and would not cause any of the volunteers to be infected.

If the trial is successful, tens of thousands of doses of the vaccine will need to be manufactured in order to inoculate high-risk communities in West Africa.

Professor Peter Piot, who co-discovered the Ebola virus in the 1970s and is now Director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, also called on the EU and its member states to do more to combat the Ebola outbreak in the wake of today's European Parliament debate.

He commented:

"The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has become a tragic humanitarian crisis. Europe has the capacities to provide the necessary assistance, and should deploy as soon as possible all necessary means in the affected countries."

Layla Moran, Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidate for Oxford West and Abingdon, added:

"The Jenner Institute will now play a leading role in providing research into a vaccination against Ebola

"Funding is vital to ensure we can stamp out this awful disease which is taking the lives of more and more people every day. I will be working hard with Catherine to secure as much funding as possible for the trial and further trials beyond.

"I particularly welcome the recent Lib Dem manifesto announcement that we will maintain the science budget for the next Parliament."