Ebola Vaccine So Far 100% Effective
The Ebola outbreak in Africa, which was first officially reported on in March 2014, might finally have met its match in a vaccine that has so far proven to be 100% effective.
The virus was only discovered in 1976, and this outbreak quickly became one of the deadliest occurrences of it, killing up to five times as many people that all of the other outbreaks put together. In total, so far, more than 28,000 people have been infected with the virus during this outbreak, and more than 11,000 have died as a result.
Of course, an Ebola epidemic of this magnitude was not expected, and at the start of the outbreak, there were no proven effective drugs or vaccines. With the fear of this epidemic becoming a pandemic, scientists have been rushing to their labs to see what they can come up with.
Normally, such a vaccine would have to go through vigorous testing, but that could take up to 10 years, and there just wasn’t time for that.
In only 12 months, an international team of researchers headed by US pharmaceutical company Merck have managed to develop an Ebola vaccine. They have been working on something started by the Public Health Agency of Canada and it has proven more effective than anyone could dream.
The VSV-EBOV (Vesicular Stomatitis Virus-Ebola Virus) is a combination of an Ebola virus fragment and another virus. Together, they help to train the immune system to beat the Ebola virus before symptoms can manifest.
So, as part of live trials, they put the vaccine out to work in Guinea. When another Ebola patient was discovered, every adult close to them – family and friends, etc – was vaccinated. This would effectively put up a protective ring of immunity around the affected patient and stop the virus from spreading.
Between April and July, 100 patients became part of the trial, randomly assigned to two groups. In one group, the close contacts were given the vaccine straight away, while in the other group, the vaccine wasn’t administered until three weeks after diagnosis.
The effects of the vaccine kick in with six to 10 days, and the sooner it is administered, the better.
Out of the more than 2,000 close contacts who were vaccinated immediately, there were no subsequent cases of the virus. Out of the group that were vaccinated after a few weeks, there were 16 cases.
This led to the WHO (World Health Organisation) making the decision to vaccinated loved ones immediately, this time including children as no adverse reactions were witnessed.
The trials continued, and the latest results have been published in the science journal, The Lancet. So far, the vaccine has proven 100% effective when administered to almost 8,000 people.
The trial will continue, without randomisation, so that everyone in contact with an Ebola patient will receive the VSV-EBOV. The WHO believe that the ultimate outcome of the vaccine will show between 75% and 100% effectiveness.
Dr Marie-Paule Kieny is WHO Assistant Director-General and one of the authors of the trial report. She explained that where the immunity rings have been put in place, cases have dropped and transmission of the virus has stopped.
“It is certainly promising,” she said. “When there is a new outbreak, this vaccine will be put to use to stop the outbreak as soon as possible to not have the terrible disaster we have now.”
These amazing results just have to be confirmed, and while the epidemic is not over yet, the vaccine is a valuable tool in the fight against the Ebola virus. An end is in sight and the world will be much better prepared and equipped for the next outbreak.