It wasn’t all that long ago that Ebola was the disease on everyone’s mind. A deadly outbreak in West Africa in the latter part of 2014 led to 11,000 gruesome deaths, and vaccination efforts went into overdrive.
Although fears related to Ebola have slowly lessened for most U.S. consumers, the disease still affects the global community to this day. Luckily, a new vaccine has finally been developed that researchers say could be 100% in fighting it. Trials of the drug conducted in Guinea are extremely promising, and stockpiles are being made against future 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 outbreak hits, we will not be defenseless. The world can’t afford the confusion and human disaster that came with the last epidemic,” said Marie-Paule Kieny, the study’s lead author and assistant director-general for health systems and innovation for the World Health Organization (WHO).
Effective but flawed
Trials of the new vaccine, named rVSV-EBOV by the researchers, were conducted in Guinea last year. Researchers used a “ring vaccination” method, wherein vaccinations were given to family, friends, neighbors, and caregivers if a victim developed the disease.
Of the 5,837 people who were vaccinated, none developed Ebola 10 days or later after being injected; those who fell ill 9 days or sooner after the injection were assumed to already be infected.
Researchers point out that the vaccine is aggressive when it comes to attacking the disease, opening up new and faster ways to isolate and kill the virus in patients. However, Dr. Gary J. Nabel says that it is only a “step in the right direction but not the ultimate solution.” Researchers say the vaccine only deals with one of the two most common strains of Ebola virus and may not provide any kind of long-lasting protection. Side effects have also been reported with its use, including joint pain and headache.
Insurance against future outbreaks
Still, having an effective method for treating Ebola, and one that was 100% effective no less, is cause for optimism. The researchers believe that their work done in Guinea may open a path to future vaccine research. While no information has been released on how big stockpiles of the new vaccine will be, having it as insurance against a future outbreak could make a huge difference.
“It’s certainly good news with regard to any new outbreak – and one will occur somewhere. But we still need to continue working on Ebola vaccines,” said Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases.