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The dramatic impact of the Ebola vaccine

Ebola virus

The recent vaccine for the Ebola virus can protect people from dying, even if they already have the disease before being vaccinated, research has found.

A study – conducted by Médecins Sans Frontières, together with National Institute of Biomedical Research and the Ministry of Health, both in the Democratic Republic of the Congo – showed that the death rate for Ebola patients was 56% versus 27% for those who were vaccinated, even when the vaccine had been given just a day or two before they became ill.  

Ebola is caused by a virus caught from wild animals and is a rare, but often fatal disease. There have been two major outbreaks of Ebola, both in Africa, which were brought under control with the Ebola vaccine (rVSV-ZEBOV) – originally developed by NewLink Genetics and Merck Vaccines, USA, along with Health Canada.

The results provide another level of verification of the effectiveness of the vaccine – the experimental version was first developed in 2003 and tested on monkeys.

Because there had been few cases of Ebola prior to 2015, when the first outbreak occurred, the original purpose of developing the vaccine was curiosity-driven basic research to understand the virus, rather than a real-world application.

Without animal research in these early years, the vaccine could not have been fast-tracked to human trials when Ebola did become a health threat – see this previous EARA article (this was also the case for the Covid-19 vaccine).


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