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Ebola Vaccine Could Be a Game-changer

  • Lisa Schlein

FILE - A health worker prepares to inject a man with an Ebola vaccine in Conakry, Guinea, March 7, 2015.

A group of experts meeting at the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend a promising experimental Ebola vaccine in future outbreaks of this fatal disease.

The 2013 Ebola outbreak in West Africa killed 11,300 people, highlighting the need for a vaccine to control of the deadly virus. Of 12 candidate vaccines, only one that was tested in Guinea reportedly has proven to be clinically effective.

However, the Chair of SAGE and WHO senior health adviser, Alejandro Cravioto, notes the vaccine is not yet licensed and therefore should only be used under strict conditions, such as informed consent.

"That means people have to sign saying that they want to take the vaccine and under the conditions that we call good clinical practices," he said. "We still have something that could really be of help in case we have something that could happen in the near future."

Cravioto tells VOA this vaccine could be a game-changer because it has demonstrated its effectiveness and its impact in a particular setting, with a particular species of Ebola.

"It is important to keep in mind that we are not recommending or SAGE is not recommending currently, and there is no evidence to recommend wide-scale use of the vaccine and to again start to vaccinate before an occurrence of an outbreak," he said. "We have no idea of the duration of protection that is afforded by the vaccine to start with."

SAGE recommends the so-called ring strategy that was used in the 1970s to eradicate smallpox to deliver the Ebola vaccine. This involves vaccinating people who are infected with the virus and all those who have come in contact with them.

This method creates a buffer zone or protective ring around the patient to prevent the spread of infection.

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