There seems to be light at the end of the tunnel as protective vaccines for Ebola are being tested. According to the World Health Organisation, an experimental Ebola vaccine has been found to be highly protective against the deadly virus after a major trial was successful in Guinea. In a press release, the WHO stated that “The vaccine is the first to prevent infection from one of the most lethal known pathogens, and the findings add weight to early trial results published last year.”
Likewise, the UN health agency noted the results of the latest trial published on Friday in the medical journal The Lancet.
According to the WHO, the vaccine, ‘rVSV-ZEBOV’, was studied in a trial involving 11,841 people in Guinea during 2015. Among the 5,837 people who received the vaccine, no Ebola cases were recorded 10 days or more after vaccination. In comparison, there were 23 cases in 10 days or more after vaccination among those who did not receive the vaccine, the global health organisation said.
The report quoted Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, WHO’s Assistant Director-General for Health Systems and Innovation, and the study’s lead author, as saying the result was “defensive” against future Ebola outbreaks. “While these compelling results come too late for those who lost their lives during West Africa’s Ebola epidemic, they show that when the next Ebola outbreak hits, we will not be defenceless,” he said.
The Ebola virus was first identified in 1976 and caused sporadic outbreaks in Africa but it wasn’t so popular till the 2013-2016 outbreaks in West Africa, that killed more than 11,300 people. This was the major factor that underlined the urgent need of a vaccine. Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, were the worst affected countries.
Dr KeÏta Sakoba, the Coordinator of the Ebola Response and Director of Guinea’s National Agency for Health Security, noted the significance of the latest results. In his words: “Ebola left a devastating legacy in our country. We are proud that we have been able to contribute to developing a vaccine that will prevent other nations from enduring what we endured”.
The WHO says the trial took place in the coastal region of Basse-Guinée, as it was experiencing new Ebola cases when the trial started in 2015.
“It employed an innovative design, a so-called `ring vaccination’ approach which is the same method used to eradicate small pox. This involved tracing all people who may have been in contact with a new Ebola case within the previous three weeks as well as certain “contacts of contacts”. These `rings’ were randomised to receive the vaccine either immediately or after a three-week delay.”
In addition to showing high efficacy among those vaccinated, it said the trial also shows that unvaccinated people in the rings were indirectly protected from Ebola virus through the ring vaccination approach.
However, the WHO noted that the trial was not designed to measure this effect, so more research will be needed. By 2018, they hope that there’ll have been a permanent cure to the deadly disease. If this is done, it would be a major medical breakthrough.