The first major Ebola pandemic appears to be drawing to a close. However, there are likely other outbreaks in the globe’s future unless steps are taken to prevent them. The Ebola vaccine offers hope that someday no one will need to worry about this deadly virus. Luckily the Ebola virus is entering the final phases of testing before it is released for use in the general public.
The Challenges of the Ebola Vaccine
The challenges of developing and testing an Ebola vaccine are many. While a vaccine prototype was developed in Canada more than a decade ago, there have been problems with finding a deactivated carrier virus for the vaccine. In addition, because there was no demand until recently for this vaccine, no pharmaceutical company was willing to invest in testing.
Testing a vaccine is extremely expensive while vaccines are not profitable to pharmaceutical companies, so no one was interested in taking on the challenge and expense. However, this has all changed in the space of a year.
Multiple companies are working on the vaccine and preparing for widespread production. Another challenge was testing. The vaccine’s safety and efficacy cannot be completely determined until it is tested on human beings, which has ethical challenges.
The Next Step in Testing
After much research and debate, the World Health Organization, or WHO, began testing of the Ebola vaccine on human subjects in early March. The plan is to give the vaccine to around 10,000 people who are at high risking of catching the virus. The vaccine has already proven safe and effective in primates who are close enough relatives to also catch the disease so human testing is the next step to developing an immunization program that eradicates the disease.
One Promising Case Study
A physician who was infected with Ebola through a needle stick in 2014 was one of the first human test subjects of the Ebola vaccine. Plans were immediately made to transport him back to the United States. In addition, he chose to receive a prototype of the Ebola vaccine, which was then and is still in an experimental phase.
The physician had a very short illness duration and recovered with no lasting effects, leading many to question whether the Ebola vaccine can not just prevent the illness but treat it as well.
Challenges for the Future
One of the future challenges will be producing enough vaccine for the millions who will need it. Pharmaceutical companies are already increasing production with the hope that it will prove safe and effective in the first trial. Developing a vaccination strategy will be another difficult task. Many experts recommend vaccinating in a radius around areas with primates carrying the virus rather than attempting to vaccinate entire countries or continents.
While handling a pandemic virus is a challenge, the future looks hopeful for eradication of the Ebola virus in people. If the Ebola virus proves to be safe and effective for human beings, as it likely will, there will be no need for people to fear this disease any longer.
Mark Sadaka is a vaccine injury lawyer who represents numerous clients from around the country. Sadaka’s firm has the resources and expertise necessary to successfully handle these medically complex cases. Go to Vaccine Injury Help Center if you have vaccine injury related concerns.