The world may be able to breathe a sigh of relief when it comes to the Ebola virus.
According to a new report in The Lancet, a very effective vaccine that protects against Ebola virus might be available within a couple years.
“We were able to estimate the efficacy of the vaccine as being 100 percent in a trial,” study author Ira Longini, a biostatistician at the University of Florida, told NPR. “It’s very unusual to have a vaccine that protects people perfectly.”
The Ebola vaccine works very fast, in less than a week, researchers said. This means the vaccine could be given right after a person is exposed to Ebola, but hasn’t yet shown symptoms
The exciting news does come with one caveat: The vaccine hasn’t been widely tested yet. So far, nearly 6,000 patients have received the vaccine. Wider testing typically sees a vaccine’s effectiveness drop and Longini said the Ebola vaccine will likely have an efficacy between about 70 percent and 100 percent. The standard flu vaccine is about 50 percent.
Huge Need for Effective Vaccine
The Ebola vaccine, known as rVSV-ZEBOV, hasn’t been authorized yet by either the World Health Organization or the Food and Drug Administration. Approvals have been projected for 2018.
Speaking to NPR, Dr. Anthony Fauci, at the National Institutes of Health, warned against being overly optimistic.
“For example, we don’t know how durable the vaccine is,” he said. “If you give health care workers the vaccine, for example, how long would they be protected? That’s very important to learn.”
The research was led by WHO in collaboration with international groups and the health ministry of Guinea, which was the epicenter of the 2014 outbreak. WHO spokesperson and study leader Marie-Paule Kieny said the work outcomes could help combat 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 Ebola outbreak hits, we will not be defenseless,” Kieny said in a statement.
Ebola virus was first identified in 1976. Intermittent outbreaks have been reported in Africa over the years. However, the most recent West African Ebola outbreak, which led to greater than 11,000 deaths and worldwide attention, amplified calls for a vaccine.
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