Ebola vaccine may be ready sooner than expected


The World Health Organisation says an experimental Ebola vaccine has been found to be highly protective against the deadly virus in a major trial in Guinea.

“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,” WHO said in a press release.

The UN health agency noted the results of the latest trial published on Friday in the medical journal The Lancet.

According to WHO, the vaccine, ‘rVSV-ZEBOV’, was studied in a trial involving 11,841 people in Guinea during 2015.

It said 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,” Kieny said.

The Ebola virus was first identified in 1976 and caused sporadic outbreaks in Africa.

However, the 2013-2016 outbreaks in West Africa that killed more than 11,300 people underlined the urgent need of a vaccine.

Guinea, along with Liberia and Sierra Leone, was one of 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.

“We are proud that we have been able to contribute to developing a vaccine that will prevent other nations from enduring what we endured,” Sakoba said.

The reports said the trial took place in the coastal region of Basse-Guinée, the area of Guinea still experiencing new Ebola cases when the trial started in 2015.

“It employed an innovative design, a so-called `ring vaccination’ approach – 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.”

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 authors noted that the trial was not designed to measure this effect, so more research will be needed.