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A new Ebola vaccine may be 'up to 100 percent effective'

26 December 2016

The vaccine, which was developed by Merck has been found to be the first one to show a highly effective result in preventing human infection with Ebola.

The new vaccines have not yet been approved by any regulatory authority, but medical experts say it is considered to be effective.

GAVI, the global vaccine alliance, provided $5 million earlier this year to buy 300,000 doses of rVSV-EBOV as a stockpile for use during future Ebola outbreaks.

This is especially promising because people chosen for the trial were friends, family and associates of an individual who contracted ebola during the height of the outbreak in 2015.

The trial took place in the coastal region of Basse-Guinée, the area of Guinea still experiencing new Ebola cases when the trial started in 2015.

Although Ebola was discovered in what was then Zaire in 1976, it grabbed worldwide headlines only in 2014, after an outbreak in West Africa quickly spiraled out of control and assumed epidemic proportions.

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The vaccine of Ebola works with the same strategy that was used to eradicated smallpox. Then "rings" or clusters of anyone who came in contact with the person are vaccinated. Some minor side effects like headaches and fatigue were reported, but among those to receive it not a single Ebola case was reported 10 or more days after administration.

World Health Organization assistant director-general Marie-Paule Kieny wrote in the medical journal "The Lancet" that an "effective vaccine" for Ebola, dubbed rVSV-ZEBOV should be 80 percent effective in a fully-fledged epidemic. However, according to the press release, "the trial was not created to measure this effect, so more research will be needed". So far, almost 6,000 patients have received the vaccine. The vaccine is now licensed to Merck which was given $5 million by GAVI, The Vaccine Alliance to produce 300,000 doses of rVSV-ZEBOV for emergency use while the vaccine is going through the WHO's approval process. Ten days after vaccination, not a single trial subject developed Ebola.

If there is to be a silver lining in the massive Ebola outbreak to recently sweep through West Africa, it is the progress being made toward developing an effective vaccine.

"Ebola left a devastating legacy in our country", Sakoba said.

Despite the high efficacy rate, authors said the further testing would be required to look at the safety of the vaccine in children and other vulnerable populations, such as those with HIV. For the active arm of the trial, rVSV-ZEBOV was given to first and second degree connections of patients infected with Ebola.

The trial was carried out by the World Health Organization (WHO) and Guinea's Ministry of Health with support from the Wellcome Trust, Médecins Sans Frontières, and other organizations from Norway and Canada.

A new Ebola vaccine may be 'up to 100 percent effective'