In what may be the best news this Christmas, an experimental vaccine against the Ebola virus has been 100% effective. According to a recent study published in The Lancet, the vaccine was tested on humans.
The virus which claimed thousands of lives in West Africa in 2014 may never be as detrimental again. The vaccine trial was led by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The scientists behind the rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine wrote in their paper: “Vaccine efficacy was 100 per cent”.
For experts and researchers, this is a breakthrough having struggled to develop an Ebola vaccine over the years. It is reported that efforts to find the vaccine were increased after almost 12,000 people died from Ebola.
The infectious disease caused a major outbreak in 2014 in Guinea; spreading to Liberia and Sierra Leone. The successful vaccine results offer hope of better protection against the disease for many fearing its resurgence.
Although it is yet to be approved for widespread use, the trial was given to people in Guinea, West Africa.
Of the 5,837 residents trialled, none contracted Ebola 10 or more days later. People who fell ill within the first nine days were discounted as it was assumed they were already infected before.
If it returns, ‘we will not be defenceless’
The lead author of the study, WHO’s assistant director-general for Health Systems and Innovation Dr Marie-Paule Kieny praised the findings. He cited although it’s too late for the virus’ deceased victims, “we will not be defenceless”, should an epidemic return.
If the Ebola virus returned, 300,000 samples of the vaccine have been stockpiled. Secondly, more work is being done to ensure the vaccine is approved by regulators.
The WHO said the trial of the vaccine used a method called “ring vaccination”. This was first tested with small pox.
A ring of people who had been in contact with someone diagnosed with Ebola was identified. Only the adults in the community aged over 18 were given the vaccine. After initial results showed it was proving successful, the vaccine was given to all within the 117 rings. The rings were made up of an average of 80 people.
Whilst Ebola was first discovered in 1976, a vaccine had not been developed because of the limited impact before 2014.