Swiss researchers halted the trial for the Ebola vaccine after observing unexpected side effects on some of the volunteers.
Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK) and NewLink genetics Corp (NASDAQ:NLNK) recently acquired the license for the Ebola vaccine, which was developed by Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory. The Canadian government donated the vaccine to the World Health Organization (WHO).
In a statement, the Hopitaux Universitairies de Geneve stated that the researchers suspended the trial for the Ebola vaccine as a “precautionary measure.”
Four volunteers reported joint pains
According to Dr. Angela Huttmer, four of the 59 volunteers in the clinical trial reported joint pains on their fingers and toes—between 10 and 15 days after receiving the Ebola vaccine.
Dr. Huttmer explained that the symptoms were mild, but the researchers want to take time to find out what’s going on before vaccinating additional volunteers.
“The reason we want to hold just for a few weeks is because this wasn’t expected. The other sites aren’t seeing this. We just want to know what’s going on before we do any more injections,” said Dr. Huttner.
The Ebola vaccine is also currently tested by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Bethesda, MD and by the Dalhousie University in Halifax.
Volunteers in the clinical trials received either a placebo or vaccine. According to Dr. Huttner, the four volunteers who reported joint pains received a vaccine. According to her, none of the four volunteers experience serious illness.
Dr. Huttner said, “I can tell you, they are all doing really well. These are people who are working. They’re functioning just fine. These are very minor findings. In fact, in almost all of the cases, they came for their scheduled visits. They didn’t call us urgently. These were things we picked up.”
Similar Ebola vaccine trial continues in Halifax
Furthermore, Dr. Huttner explained that people may experience joint pains after suffering viral infection and receiving some vaccines. According to her, women who were vaccinated against rubella normally experienced joint pains.
According to her, researchers think the side effect of the Ebola vaccine is likely acceptable. However, they want to see how common is the side effect and how severe it can be. A number of the volunteers who received the vaccine in the trial were not yet on 15th day after injection.
The Swiss researchers plan to resume the Ebola vaccine trial on January 5.
Meanwhile, a similar trial will continue as planned in Halifax. Ben Maycock, a spokesperson at the IWK Health Center said, “There is no change to the Canadian trial.” He believed that the dosage in the Halifax trial was “the low-end of the spectrum.”
The researchers at the Halifax trial aim to inject 40 volunteers with the Ebola vaccine. As of December 5, 28 volunteers have been vaccinated.