Geneva, Switzerland – A new study published in The Lancet medical journal points to the emergence of the first successful vaccine guarding against the Ebola virus. In 2014, the virus devastated West Africa and spread to the United States and parts of Europe. According to the study, the new injection offers 100% protection against the pathogen.
The trial, headed by the Guinea’s Health Ministry and the World Health Organization, took place in a coastal region of Guinea that was still experiencing new cases of Ebola in early 2015. Using the “ring vaccination” approach, researchers located members of the community who had been in contact with a newly diagnosed patient. Identified contacts were grouped into rings, which were then randomized to receive the injection.
Out of the 6,000 vaccinated individuals, all remained free of the virus following vaccination, whereas 23 individuals who did not receive the injection developed Ebola.
The vaccine is currently being fast-tracked for regulatory approval, and will be available as early as 2018. With the help of GAVI, the global vaccine alliance, 300,000 doses have been made available should there be an outbreak in the interim.
“Ebola left a devastating legacy in our country,” said Dr. KeÏta Sakoba, Director of the National Agency for Health Security in Guinea. “We are proud that we have been able to contribute to developing a vaccine that will prevent other nations from enduring what we endured.”
WHY THIS MATTERS
Although the Ebola pathogen was first discovered in the 1970’s, it wasn’t until the 2014 outbreak was declared a public health emergency of international concern that major health organizations decided to take fast action.
The Ebola outbreak elicited a collaborative global response where legislators, public health officials, pharmaceutical companies, and physicians worked together to push for a solution.
The result was remarkable; the development of a vaccine—a process that typically takes a decade—occurred over the course of 2 years.
While it cannot reverse the incredible devastation experienced in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, the vaccine can provide hope. Hope for preventing another Ebola outbreak. And hope that the future will bring more collaborative medical innovation—diagnostic tools, drugs, and facilities—that can prevent infectious diseases from becoming epidemics.