Shrinking budgets slowing Ebola vaccine

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) – The head of the National Institutes of Health, while touring the campus of the Washington University School of Medicine Wednesday, said funding problems at the NIH have delayed development of an Ebola vaccine.

Dr. Francis Collins, NIH director, was on the Washington University campus to be briefed on NIH funded research into Alzheimer`s Disease and Genomics.

But at an afternoon news conference, all the questions were about the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and the fears some have it could spread to the United States.

‘We should not slip into the mode of imagining this means we are going to have a major outbreak in the United States, I don`t believe that is going to happen,’ Collins said. ‘I think our public health system, while not perfect, has all kinds of checks and balances to enable us to keep it from bursting out in that fashion,’ he said.

Earlier in the week, Collins was quoted in a Huffington Post article as saying if NIH`s funding had not been static for the past ten years, an Ebola vaccine could have been available by now.

‘About half of what we used to support we can`t support anymore and that was true for Ebola as well as everything else,’ Collins said.

NIH has been trying to develop an Ebola vaccine since 2001.  It has already been tested in animals and a small group of human volunteers, but much more research needs to be done before it can be declared a success.

The NIH hopes to start field trials of the vaccine in West Africa in December.

‘We are pulling out all the stops so this is really all hands on deck,’ Collins said.

‘But you can`t skip steps without running the risk you might actually be doing harm.’