A newly developed Ebola vaccine could bring relief to millions of people threatened by the deadly disease. Ever since the first cases of the deadly Ebola virus disease (EVD) was first detected back in 1976, there was a constant effort by drug companies and governments across the globe to develop an effective Ebola vaccine. However, until the West-African Ebola virus outbreak that ended up claiming more than 11,000 lives in the 2013-15 period, there was little progress to be seen.
The most recent Ebola outbreak did, however, prompt researchers to accelerate the pace of developing an effective vaccine against the deadly virus — and if we are to believe fresh reports from major publications around the world, we might be just one step away from having an effective Ebola vaccine in place. This one vaccine could potentially save thousands of lives over the next few years. While it is still pending approval from regulatory authorities around the world, there is already talk about the the possibility of a major Ebola epidemic never happening in the future, Vox reports.
It is pertinent to note here that right now, there are many potential Ebola vaccines under development. However, the one that is now making news is called the called rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine (also called VSV-EBOV). In an article on the research journal The Lancet, researchers testing the new vaccine observed that the new Ebola vaccine offered substantial protection against Ebola virus disease. The journal went on to affirm that vaccinated individuals displayed 100 percent protection from the virus. Tests on the effectiveness of rVSV-ZEBOV had been underway for the past few years. The initial results of the initial tests of the rVSV-ZEBOV Ebola vaccine were first noted last year.
According to the journal, a clinical trial conducted on more than 12,000 people — mostly from countries like Guinea and Sierra Leone, among the worst affected by the outbreak back in 2013-14 indicated that the vaccine was proving to be very effective. In all, more than 5,000 people were administered the vaccine and to the researchers amazement, all of them were able to dodge the virus safely. Not a single infection was reported. Another group of individuals who were not administered the vaccine, however, reported 23 confirmed cases of the Ebola virus disease.
Dr. Jeremy Farrar, the director of the Wellcome Trust, commented on the startling result of the revelation termed it a remarkable outcome.
“This trial, confirming the 100 percent efficacy of the rVSV Ebola vaccine, is a simply remarkable outcome. We’ve shown that by working collaboratively, across international borders and sectors, we can develop and test vaccines rapidly and use them to help bring epidemics to an end.”
Meanwhile the New York Times reports that researchers had to adopt innovative methods to try out the new vaccine. This was because by the time the first trials for rVSV-ZEBOV were launched in 2015, the Ebola virus epidemic was also on the wane. In fact, there weren’t too many cases for them to study and deduce the effectiveness of the vaccine. That is when they tried to be creative and attempted to do something known as a “ring vaccination” in medical parlance. This method was famously used back in the ’70s to eradicate smallpox. Ring vaccination basically involves the immunization of people close to an individual who is confirmed to have contracted the disease. These close contacts may include family members, close friends, or at times, neighbors. The idea basically is to create a biological “protective ring” around these people and stop the transmission of the virus any further.
After researchers noted that the initial tests showed promising results, they changed the trial design to figure the side effects of the vaccine. The results were once again encouraging. It was noted that most of the side effects included minor issues like headache, fatigue and muscle pain. In fact, the vaccine was even found to be safe and effective for children. To further test the vaccine, researchers also used the vaccine effectively on non-human primates, where again, it was 100 percent effective in preventing an infection.
Following the success of the new Ebola vaccine, the researchers behind it are now terming it the only positive outcome from the largest ever major Ebola epidemic from 2013-15. John-Arne Røttingen, director of the division of infectious disease control at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, who worked on the study said the following.
“The Ebola vaccine studies during the Ebola outbreak were one of the few successes of the collective international response. The world managed to plan and conduct more than 15 clinical trials in less than a year. And this ring vaccination trial, with its innovative research design, managed to demonstrate efficacy for one of the vaccines.”
The new Ebola virus vaccine was discovered by the Public Health Agency of Canada. Now, it is under development by pharmaceutical giant Merck. The vaccine is still pending approval from agencies like the U.S. FDA (Food and Drug Administration). At its current pace, the approval could take as long as December, 2017. The delay for the final approval is most probably because of the lack of any data pertaining to the long term effectiveness of the Ebola vaccine.
[Featured Image by Cliff Owen/AP Images]