Hope may soon be on the way for the Ebola-ravaged nations of West Africa. According to reports, an Ebola vaccine is about to enter its final-stage trials and, if shown to be effective, could be ready before summer.
Many of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies — including GlaxoSmithKline, NewLink Genetics, Merck, Johnson & Johnson, and Bavarian Nordic — have been working on an Ebola vaccine since the final months of 2014. Currently, about 90 experts from those firms are meeting at the headquarters of the World Heath Organization (WHO) to discuss the vaccine’s progress and plan its distribution throughout those nations most affected by the deadly virus, including Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia.
Margaret Chan, WHO’s director general, is hopeful the vaccine will be ready soon. “It is my understanding that no major safety signals have been reported to date,” Chan said.
There’s no denying that the vaccine is desperately needed. More than 20,000 people have now been infected with the virus, with roughly one in three succumbing to an infection. Now, there are fears that the virus is spreading, from West Africa’s cities to rural areas.
“We all want the momentum and sense of urgency to continue,” Chan added. “Too many health care workers are still getting infected, including nationals and doctors and nurses from foreign medical teams.”
Still, WHO’s Assistant-Director for Health Security, Keiji Fukuda, says we must be patient. “We have to be very cautious,” Fukuda says. “We don’t want people to get the idea this is over.”