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Good news: Ebola vaccine is finally here

By Kizito Lubano | January 4th 2017

The year 2017 has started with great news following the recent publication of scientific breakthroughs in the fight against ebola.

It took a major ebola epidemic, that led to more than 11,000 deaths, but we now finally have a successful vaccine candidate in development. If approved, the vaccine would vastly reduce the likelihood of ever seeing another major ebola outbreak.

More than a year ago, researchers published striking preliminary results from a large trial on the ebola vaccine. They showed that everyone who got the shot immediately after contact with an ebola victim did not get the virus.

In December 2016, the same researchers — who hail from the World Health Organisation, Guinea’s Ministry of Health, Public Health England, and other international partners — unveiled their final result and they are just as remarkable. The vaccine was tested in a trial involving nearly 12,000 people in Guinea and Sierra Leone during 2015 and 2016. Among the 5,837 people who got the vaccine, no ebola cases were recorded. By comparison, there were 23 ebola cases in the control group that had not gotten the vaccine. “This trial, confirming the 100 per cent efficacy of this ebola vaccine, is simply a remarkable outcome,” Dr Jeremy Farrar, Director - Wellcome Trust, said of the research.

One of the most fascinating things about the vaccine, beyond its apparent safety and effectiveness, is how the researchers studied it. The world managed to plan and conduct more than 15 clinical trials in less than a year.

In Kenya, the ebola vaccine trials are still ongoing since they were launched in May 2016. Results are expected soon

They decided to try something called “ring vaccination,” a public health method used to eradicate smallpox in the 1970s. It involves immunising the immediate contacts, friends, family, housemates and neighbours of the person who falls ill with a virus to create a protective ring around them and stop transmission.

Researchers are calling this development one of the only positive outcomes to come out of the 2014-2016 ebola epidemic which was the largest the world had ever seen.

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