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Ebola Shot Turned Down by WHO Is Best Hope as Virus Rages

9/26/2014

Bloomberg News
By Makiko Kitamura and Shannon Pettypiece

The calls started coming in August to the office of GlaxoSmithKline Plc (GSK) Chief Executive Officer Andrew Witty from the head of the World Health Organization, Margaret Chan. The Ebola outbreak was raging out of control and Chan needed the drugmaker’s vaccine as quickly as possible.

The sudden sense of urgency for an Ebola vaccine was an about face from a few months earlier when Glaxo contacted the WHO, asking whether its vaccine could help with the outbreak. At that time, the company was told the focus was on containment and the WHO didn’t have a policy for using vaccines in this type of situation. “We’ll get back to you” was the message, said Ripley Ballou, head of Glaxo’s Ebola vaccine program.

As those months passed and containment efforts failed, the epidemic spun out of control, claiming more lives than all past outbreaks combined. So far, more than 6,200 people have been infected and 2,900 have died, and the virus could sicken more than 1.4 million people by January under the worst-case scenario projected by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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