Ebola vaccine's success will lead to award for Iowa company

28 December, 2016, 00:54 | Author: Joy Garcia
  • An outbreak of Ebola killed more than 11,300 people in West Africa and left British nurse Pauline Cafferkey fighting for her life

The vaccine is "a step in the right direction but not the ultimate solution", Dr. Gary J. Nabel, a chief scientific officer at the Sanofi pharmaceutical company, told the paper. This surely cements this vaccine as one important tool in controlling outbreaks of Ebola in the future. Among those in the 12,000-person study who did not receive the vaccine, 23 cases of Ebola developed.

The West African outbreak of Ebola virus disease began in December 2013, infecting almost 29,000 people and killing about one third of those.

The news comes just a couple years after a 2014 epidemic in West Africa killed more than 11,000 people, including one in the United States and several in Europe.

The findings of the trial - conducted in Guinea involving 11841 people during 2015- also supports the results of earlier trials which were published past year.

Other studies are looking at the immune response to the vaccine including one conducted in parallel to the ring trial among frontline Ebola workers in Guinea. Ring vaccination basically involves the immunization of people close to an individual who is confirmed to have contracted the disease. For the research, scientists used the "ring vaccination" approach, similar to what was used to eradicate small pox.

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In addition to showing high efficacy among those vaccinated, the trial also shows that unvaccinated people in the rings were indirectly protected from Ebola virus through the ring vaccination approach (so-called "herd immunity"). The experimental vaccine (dubbed rVSV-ZEBOV) may also only protect against one of the two common Ebola strains, which will mandate continued work to fully prevent the virus, according to the Times. However, the authors note that the trial was not created to measure this effect, so more research will be needed.

The drug also leads to some unwelcome side effects, researchers reported, including joint pain and headaches. Being certain about the effectiveness is important because computer models suggest that ring vaccination for Ebola may only be successful when there aren't that many cases. It was eventually licensed to Merck, which signed an agreement in January with Gavi, the world's biggest funder of vaccines for developing countries, to submit the experimental Ebola vaccine for regulatory approval by the end of 2017. Dr. Moussa Doumbia, an experienced vaccine clinical researcher at CVD-Mali who was deployed to World Health Organization, served as one of the on-site principal investigators of the Guinea field trial.

The director of British-based medical research institute the Wellcome Trust described the findings as "remarkable".

The rapid development of rVSV-EBOV contributed to the development of WHO's R&D Blueprint, a global strategy to fast-track the development of effective tests, vaccines and medicines during epidemics. And there's a serious ethical issue in withholding a vaccine that has a good chance of being safe and effective from half the population, which may lead to more death and allow the disease to spread further.

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