WHO (World Health Organization) announce that the rate of recent infections of Ebola virus in Africa has dropped, as vaccine moves closer to approval.
Between 25 September and 15 October, 15 people were diagnosed with the Ebola virus in Democratic Republic of the Congo, says WHO. As at April, about 300 new infections were reported in three weeks. Since the outbreak began in August 2018, almost 3,250 people have been infected and more than 2,150 have died.
“My deepest gratitude is to the studies’ volunteers, researchers, health workers in Guinea, other countries and the Democratic Republic of the Congo who have put themselves at risk to ensure people are protected with this vaccine. The drop in infections is not a reason to relax efforts to contain the virus. We must treat every case as if it is the first since every case has the potential to spark a new outbreak” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.
A randomized trial for the vaccine began during the West Africa Ebola outbreak in 2015. The trial was successfully run using an innovative ring vaccination design. In the 1970s, this ring strategy helped to eradicate smallpox, but this was the first time that an experimental vaccine was evaluated this way.
The Good News
The good news came in 18 October, when the European Medicines Agency (EMA) recommended that the European Commission (EC) approve an Ebola vaccine produced by the pharmaceutical company Merck.
In the current Ebola outbreak in Democratic Republic of the Congo, more than 236,000 people have been vaccinated with rVSV-ZEBOV-GP vaccine donated by Merck to WHO, including more than 60,000 health and frontline workers in Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, South Sudan, Rwanda and Burundi. Most Ebola specialists agree that the outbreak would have been much worse without the vaccine.
The decision will be made within 10 weeks on whether to approve the vaccine for sale by EC following the counsel of the EMA.
“This vaccine has already saved many lives in the current Ebola outbreak, and the decision by European regulator will help it to eventually save many more,” said Dr Tedros, WHO Director-General. “I am proud of the role WHO has played, from supporting the research, to conducting the trial in Guinea in 2015.”