In 2014, we watched ebola spread through Western Africa, killing thousands of people, and even making its way to the United States. The most challenging part for doctors and scientists is that there has been no cure or vaccine for ebola—until now.
Recently, an experimental vaccine for ebola was created and tested by Merck, the pharmaceutical company known for being a pioneer in vaccine research. Trials have been highly successful, and the vaccine was found to be 100% effective for one of the two major strains of ebola. This is exciting, groundbreaking news!
First off, what exactly is ebola?
Ebola, formerly known as ebola hemorrhagic fever, is a severe and often fatal virus. Ebola is transmitted from wild animals and spreads in humans through bodily fluids. Early signs and symptoms of ebola include fever, fatigue, muscle pain, and a sore throat, followed by the more severe symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, impaired liver function and bleeding. Typically, the incubation period for ebola is anywhere from 2 to 21 days.
What is the new ebola vaccine?
Currently there are no approved vaccines for Ebola prevention or exposure, so this is great news. Merck’s ebola vaccine is referred to (for now) as rVSV-ZEBOV. Confusing, we know, but it is set for vaccine licensure by the end of 2017—and will get a friendlier name before it’s available in pharmacies.
The unique thing about this vaccine is that Merck has committed to ensure that 300,000 doses are available for emergency use while they wait for FDA approval. The vaccine has also been submitted to the World Health Organization’s Emergency Use and Assessment listing procedure so it can be made available for use before FDA approval. This could help in the case of another outbreak.
Read more about the vaccine here.