Scientists Create Effective Ebola Vaccine, Just A Couple Years After Deadly Epidemic

Posted December 28, 2016

But while the vaccine had 100 percent efficacy among the almost 6,000 test subjects in Guinea who received it, NPR notes those numbers will likely decline over time as more people are vaccinated, and more work is likely needed to craft a "perfect" counter to the virus.

To assess safety, people who received the vaccine were observed for 30 minutes after vaccination, and at repeated home visits up to 12 weeks later.

"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 Health Organization's Marie-Paule Kieny, the lead author on the study, told the Times.

After interim results were published showing the vaccine's efficacy, all rings were offered the vaccine immediately and the trial was also opened to children older than six years. That means as soon as someone contracts the disease, the vaccine is given to those they've come into close contact with. "We are proud to have contributed to this important work, which involved efforts from many investigators across the globe".

The trial, called "Ebola ça Suffit" - French for "Ebola that's enough" - was led by the WHO, Guinea's Ministry of Health, Medecins sans Frontieres, and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, as well as other global partners.

The news comes just a couple years after a 2014 epidemic in West Africa killed more than 11,000 people, including one in the United States and several in Europe. The vaccine showed 100 percent efficacy in protecting those who got it.

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The findings of the trial - conducted in Guinea involving 11841 people during 2015- also supports the results of earlier trials which were published a year ago. This involves identifying people who already have the disease - the index cases - and tracing all the individuals in contact with them, and then the contacts of those contacts, which are usually friends, family and carers.

The Guinea trial, described in the Lancet, used an approach known as "ring vaccination", which the researchers described as the same approach used to eradicate smallpox.

Since Ebola was first identified in 1976, thousands of people have died, including more than 11,300 people from 2013 to 2016.

The vaccine is called rVSV-ZEBOV and manufactured by Merck Sharp & Dohme, a subsidiary of the USA drugmaker. Additional research is needed.

Two serious adverse events were reported after vaccination, with one participant spiking a fever and another suffering an allergic reaction.

The vaccine has yet to be approved by a regulatory agency like the Food and Drug Administration. Merck has also submitted the vaccine to WHO's Emergency Use and Assessment Listing procedure, a mechanism through which experimental vaccines, medicines and diagnostics can be made available for use prior to formal licensure. 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.