Two years ago, a rare and deadly disease ravaged the poorest countries of Western Africa killing over 11,000 people. This disease was Ebola, otherwise known as hemorrhagic fever, which is fatal in more than half of the people it infects.
This Ebola outbreak presented an unprecedented global health crisis, and an epidemic for the nations of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
It is unbelievable that a spectacular turnaround in public health has occurred as a result of aggressive and cooperative scientific research. An Ebola vaccine, as reported by the esteemed British Journal The Lancet, has proved 100% effective in over 7,000 human subjects it was tested on. This means that this vaccine, in all likelihood, will be highly effective in preventing the spread of this disease in future outbreaks.
The Ebola vaccine is called VSV-EBOV, and trials began in March 2015 in Guinea. It was given to over 4,000 close contacts of about 100 Ebola patients including family members, neighbors and co-workers who voluntarily participated, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
How the VSV-EBOV vaccine tricks the body
Despite its complicated name, the World Health Organization (WHO) describes VSV-EBOV as an essentially a “good” microorganism that has borrowed the guise of the Ebola virus but does not actually contain the deadly virus. This “good” microorganism tricks the body of the vaccinated individual into thinking it is the ebola virus and then in response catalyzes an immune defence against the virus.
If the vaccine is effective and if a person who has been vaccinated comes into contact with the real Ebola virus, their defences are ready and they will be able to combat the virus without getting sick, according to WHO.
The ring vaccination method
By giving the vaccination to all people who have come into contact with an infected person, a protective ring is created to stop the virus from spreading further.
This “ring method,” which was adopted for this trial, is based upon the strategy that was used to eradicate smallpox.
Trials are now continuing on frontline workers, and will also include 13-17 year olds as well as possibly 6 to 12 year old children, based on new vaccine safety evidence, reports WHO.
The first person to receive the Ebola vaccine
Twenty-seven year old Mohamed Soumah was the first person in the world to receive the Ebola VSV-EBOV vaccine, according to WHO. “It wasn’t easy. People in the village said that the injection was to kill me. I was afraid. I was the first one to be injected, the very first, here in my village on March 23rd, 2015 I’ve been monitored for 3 months and I’ve had no problems. The last follow-up, 84 days after the vaccination, was all clear”.
The speed of this vaccine is a miracle of collaboration
The story of Ebola, although initially tragic, has ended up being an unprecedented success, worthy of Nobel Prize recognition. The efficiency and collaboration of so many world organizations to fight, and hopefully eradicate, this deadly illness is truly groundbreaking in the last 50 years.
A vaccine normally takes more than a decade to make, and in this case, these researchers and scientists got it done in only 12 months. Record-breaking and amazing.
The Ebola vaccine is a modern miracle on so many levels, and I hope this great example sets a precedence for developing more vaccines to wipe out other global deadly diseases such as malaria, Dengue fever and chagas disease in the future.
Further testing is still to be done
While the vaccine up to now shows 100% efficacy in individuals, more hard evidence is needed on its capacity to protect populations through what is called “herd immunity.” Herd immunity only works if most people in the population are vaccinated.
Important questions such as how soon the Ebola vaccine’s protection kicks in after vaccination and how long protection lasts still must be answered, but results so far suggest a promising breakthrough in eradicating the disease.