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"In the particular circumstances of this outbreak, and provided certain conditions are met, the panel reached consensus that it is ethical to offer unproven interventions with as yet unknown efficacy and adverse effects, as potential treatment or prevention," the WHO said in a statement following a meeting of experts on medical ethics.
The meeting was held after two employees of US non-governmental organisation Samaritan's Purse had contacted the deadly virus in Liberia. They were flown to the United States where they were treated with an experimental vaccine which earlier had only been tested on apes.
The patients began to convalesce, yet it provoked a wealth of ethical questions, such as why residents of certain countries had a stock of the medicine while in other states the virus was killing hundreds of people. Later, Liberian authorities said they had received from Washington an experimental vaccine which would be used to treat infected Liberian doctors.
According to WTO spokeswoman Fedela Chaib, the USA and Liberia had a direct contact and that the WHO had not been involved in the discussion.
Chaib denied the information that the WHO planned to send an experimental vaccine to West Africa. The organisation has no stock of medicines to send to the countries needing them. It is not a WHO function. The decision to send the vaccine was made by the country and the pharmaceutical company which produces the vaccine, she said.
The WHO spokeswoman underlined that the organisation could only provide a technical consultation.
According to the World Health Organization, 1,013 people died in the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa, and another 1,848 were infected. Almost all the cases occurred in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.