Vladimir Putin claims Russia has developed a cure for Ebola. Newsweek reports that he made his announcement on Wednesday night alongside Russia’s health minister.
“We have good news,” Putin told Russia’s cabinet and a slew of journalists. “We have registered a cure for the Ebola virus, which, after corresponding testing, is showing a high effectiveness, much higher than the treatments used in the world at the moment.”
There are several other treatments for Ebola, even a U.S.-made Zmapp, which treated one medic named Kent Brantly, but ran into problems being available to a wider audience.
Putin’s news of the Ebola vaccine comes just a few hours before the World Health Organization declared Liberia free of the virus on Thursday morning. Yahoo News reports that some flare-ups might be possible because the virus stays active in the host for up to a year.
The Ebola outbreak is officially over. And Putin says he has a vaccine for it, too https://t.co/M9GV7D4rYI— The Daily Beast (@thedailybeast) January 14, 2016
“All known chains of transmission have been stopped in West Africa. We are now at a critical period in the Ebola epidemic as we move from managing cases and patients to managing the residual risk of new infections,” says Bruce Aylward, the WHO’s Special Representative.
“We still anticipate more flare-ups and must be prepared for them.”
Liberia hasn’t had a case in 42 days, but similar “Ebola-free” declarations were made last May and September, right before a few cases popped up yet again.
If Putin’s statements are true, then Ebola shouldn’t be much of a problem anymore. Russia’s health minister says they have developed two vaccines to the disease.
‘We’ve produced a vaccine for Ebola’ – Vladimir Putin https://t.co/ttGUL0y7sT— Y! Online (@YNaija) January 14, 2016
“The first vaccine is unique and is not on the level of anything else in the world,” she said, saying that even a small dose provides “100 percent neutralization” of the virus.
The news has been met with a little skepticism since Putin hasn’t exactly given a name to the Ebola vaccine or even explained how it works. In fact, Ira Longini, an infectious disease expert in Florida, thinks these new claims are “nonsensical.”
“This is a preliminary stage 1 study. Which is fine – it shows their product should go forward. It shows some promise,” said Longini. “But you can’t say anything about efficacy at this point.”
“Without the Phase 3 efficacy trial, you can’t really make any statements about the efficacy of a vaccine. The best they could say is it’s just promising.”
In October, Russia’s health ministry claimed their vaccine had shown success in a phase one trial.
“They were always very sketchy. They never provided any data at all. Just concepts. It was just the beginning of their study,” Longini continued. “Their product was nowhere near ready. They just finished their Phase 1 study now.”
Getting back to Africa, many there are also still skeptical about the future.
“As educators we will continue to tell our students to remain vigilant. The pronouncement today is a joy but does not call for celebration because we may experience another outbreak,” said Aminata Kanneh, an entrepreneur.
This cure for the virus may have come a little too late.
“Even if they got their vaccine through Phase 2, they wouldn’t be able to test it. You have to have Ebola transmission happening somewhere to test it,” Longini continued.
Russia did the world a massive service, but it would’ve been much more relevant a year ago when the virus was in full swing. Time will tell whether this new Ebola vaccine will actually be used at all.
[Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images]