Scientists, doctors, donors, and drug companies collaborated to produce this breakthrough in just 12 months.
Great news concerning the fearsome topic of Ebola: A vaccine against the virus has proven to be 100% effective. Continued development and testing may soon bring the current epidemic in west Africa to an end, experts say.
As The Guardian reports, the newly developed vaccine conducted during the outbreak in Guinea has so far proven to be astonishingly successful. Results of the trials involving 4,000 people are “remarkable” because of the unprecedented speed of which the development of the vaccine and the testing were carried out.
Normally, it requires nearly a decade to produce a vaccine, but scientists, doctors, donors, and drug companies were able to collaborate and produce this breakthrough in just 12 months – a major accomplishment, indeed.
“Having seen the devastating effects of Ebola on communities and even whole countries with my own eyes, I am very encouraged by today’s news,” said Børge Brende, the foreign minister of Norway, which helped fund the trial.
“This new vaccine, if the results hold up, may be the silver bullet against Ebola, helping to bring the current outbreak to zero and to control future outbreaks of this kind. I would like to thank all partners who have contributed to achieve this sensational result, due to an extraordinary and rapid collaborative effort.”
At present, a total of 27,748 cases of Ebola have been reported in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone (updated July 26, 2015). Of that number, 11,279 resulted in deaths. As the outcome of many cases are still unknown, the toll will be significantly higher.
The number of Ebola cases have been dramatically decreasing, however, with only four new cases in Guinea and three in Sierra Leone reported the last week of July.
The Guardian reports how researchers decided to use this lull to test on at-risk populations. The “gold standard” approach had researchers administer half of willing populations a placebo while the other half received the vaccine. When Ebola began to peak in a location, all who were willing and who were in contact with the sick person were vaccinated. For safety reasons, children, adolescents, and pregnant women were excluded.
To determine if the vaccine was successful or not, cluster outbreaks were randomly assigned to either receive the vaccine immediately or wait three weeks until Ebola was confirmed. Among the 2,014 individuals who were vaccinated immediately, there were no cases of Ebola from 10 days after vaccination. This period of time allowed for immunity to develop, according to the results published in The Lancet medical journal (pdf).
In the clusters who received delayed vaccinations, there were 16 cases out of 2,380.
No doubt the trials were a risk, but they have – thankfully – proven to be worth it.
Said the assistant director-general of the World Health Organization Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny: “We believe that the world is on the verge of an efficacious Ebola vaccine.”
Trials will now continue, but without randomization. This means that every individual who contracts Ebola – as well as those in close contact with them – will be offered the vaccination. And now that trials in Gabon have established the vaccine to be safe for children and adolescents, they, too, will be offered it.
Because vaccinations are normally trialed in hundreds of thousands of people, there is still a lot more testing to be conducted. But Kierny believes the numbers so far are very promising.
“This trial dared to use a highly innovative and pragmatic design, which allowed the team in Guinea to assess this vaccine in the middle of an epidemic,” said Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust and one of the world’s leading experts on infectious disease. “It is a remarkable result which shows the power of equitable international partnerships and flexibility.
“Our hope is that this vaccine will now help bring this epidemic to an end and be available for the inevitable future Ebola epidemics. This partnership also shows that such critical work is possible in the midst of a terrible epidemic. It should change how the world responds to such emerging infectious disease threats.”
It’s amazing what can be accomplished when lives are placed at more value than profit. Comment your thoughts below.
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