The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is currently experiencing its 9th outbreak of Ebola since first detection of the virus in 1976. This outbreak is believed to have started in early April in the town of Bikoro and has already infected 32, killing 18. Health officers are determined to contain the outbreak rapidly, fearing it will spread.
Dr. Tedros Adhanom, Director General of WHO, said that the WHO and partners are preparing to vaccinate high-risk groups as early as the end of this week. The rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine, developed by Merck, Sharpe & Dohme has proved 100 percent effective in trials, but this is the first time it will be rolled out in a wider population although still under trail conditions. The vaccine require storage at sub-zero temperatures making it difficult to transport. However, donors have contributed millions of dollars to supplying equipment and expertise in anticipation of the next outbreak.
The vaccine is not yet licensed so it will be deployed under a compassionate use protocol. “If it succeeds in halting the outbreak, the vaccine may permanently change the way the world responds to Ebola and greatly lessen the terror surrounding the disease,” wrote Donald McNeil in the New York Times.
This vaccine was not available to the many thousands of infected Ebola patients during the West Africa outbreak in 2013, and its rapid development is impressive. The West African epidemic left the world feeling defenseless as the virus spread quickly killing more than 11,000. Scientists wasted no time devoting efforts to research and development, soon moving on to trials and later getting the vaccine fast-tracked by the FDA.
photo credit: WHO