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Scientists Announce Ebola Vaccine

ebola outbreak vaccine medicine health virus advance

It took a major Ebola epidemic that led to more than 11,000 deaths and nearly another 30,000 infections, but the world now finally has a successful Ebola vaccine candidate in development. If approved, the vaccine would vastly reduce the likelihood of ever seeing another major Ebola outbreak.

More than a year ago, researchers published striking preliminary results from a large trial on a vaccine called rVSV-ZEBOV in the Lancet. They showed that everyone who got the shot immediately after contact with an Ebola victim didn't get the virus.

Today, the same researchers from the World Health Organization, Guinea’s Ministry of Health, Public Health England, and other international partners have declared their final results in the Lancet, and they’re just as amazing. The vaccine was tested in a trial involving nearly 12,000 people in Guinea and Sierra Leone during 2015 and 2016. Among the 5,837 people who got the vaccine, no Ebola cases were recorded. By comparison, there were 23 Ebola cases in the control group that had not gotten the vaccine.

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Researchers are calling this development one of the only positive outcomes of the 2014-2016 Ebola epidemic — the largest the world had ever seen.

The new Ebola vaccine works very quickly (within 4 or 5 days) which means it could be given after someone has been exposed to Ebola but hasn't yet developed the disease.

Over time after additional testing, the efficacy is likely to lie somewhere between about 70 percent and 100 percent.

The vaccine, called vesicular stomatitis virus–Ebola virus (VSV-EBOV) hasn't been approved yet by either the World Health Organization or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. That's predicted to happen sometime in 2018.

No-one knows yet how long the vaccine will confer protection. What is certain is that the vaccine offers short-term protection during outbreaks, which is what's needed to stop the virus from spreading and to keep small outbreaks from getting out of control.

Vaccines typically take years, even a decade to test. But the field trials for this one took less than two years.

In case of an emergency, the company (Merck) has committed to making 300,000 doses of the vaccine available, although additional safety testing means that the vaccine won’t hit the market for a while.

This is an astounding advance in public health, and the entire world can breathe just a little easier thanks to this new research.


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