Hailemariam Shimelis (REDP case team leader)
The terrifying Ebola epidemic of 2014, located in the West African countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, was the worst outbreak ever reported. One of the few good things to emerge is that medical professionals learned a lot about the disease. A study which has been in development for 15 years has been shown in a clinical trial to be up to 100 percent effective at preventing the deadly virus.
The study was conducted in Guinea around 2015, where the outbreak was in full swing. The study included around 12,000 people among which no Ebola cases were identified 10 days or more after vaccination of about 6,000 people who received the vaccine. Nonetheless, 23 cases appeared in those who did not receive the vaccine, within the same time frame.
However, there are still many unknowns about the vaccine, including its effectiveness and whether it will be safe for pregnant women, HIV positive individuals, and young children.
Conversely, this vaccine won’t stop sporadic cases from popping up, nor will it be immediately available to some who are most vulnerable. Marie Pierre Preziosi, medical occur of the Initiative for Vaccine Research at the World Health Organization (WHO), which led the trial, says the vaccine is only meant to be used to stop the spread of an emerging outbreak.
Once WHO identifies new Ebola cases, only people most at risk of being exposed to a sick person—like family members, health care providers, or sanitation workers—would receive the vaccine if it’s approved.
Thus, the vaccine won’t be administered as a preventive vaccine on a large scale, like vaccine campaigns for smallpox or polio, because there’s not enough data to show how long the vaccine’s protection lasts and because it only targets one strain of the virus.