Clinical trials to ensure a safe vaccine are either in the pipeline, have already begun or are planned for the future in various geographical locations around the world. First identified in 1976, the Ebola virus is one of the four ebolaviruses which cause disease in humans. Because of its high mortality rate the Ebola virus is classed as a WHO Risk Group 4 Pathogen (requiring Biosafety).
Some of the countries where clinical trials have begun include Canada, the US, the UK and Mali. Even though the risk of catching Ebola within these regions is practically nil, there is no shortage of volunteers. In the current trials, it is being studied how the recipients react to the vaccine, including monitoring if antibody levels rise over time. However, the volunteers won’t be exposed to the pathogen because of how dangerous it is. One cannot get Ebola from this vaccine but it triggers an immune response to the disease. Clinical trials on animals have been successful so far. Other current possible cures, although not proven, include blood transfusions from surviving patients, antiviral drugs, and man-made antibiotics.
There are many challenges, for example, how much is a safe dose, as this is the first time this kind of trial is being done on humans. The aim here is to get some information on the safety of the vaccine within a clinical trial process.
When the vaccine is determined as safe, it has to be proven whether it works
The real world testing in West Africa will only go ahead if a vaccine is proven safe and can trigger the immune system in producing antibodies against the virus. Since Ebola emerged 10 months ago it has killed thousands (including Aid workers) in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. There has been random cases reported – including the US and one in Spain.
As of late, it has been reported that in some early studies, the Ebola vaccine is safe and could be used in West Africa within a few months, according to a WHO spokesperson. It has been reported that there could be many challenges ahead with administering the vaccine in the Ebola stricken areas where there is already poor health care systems. Challenges include transportation and storage of the vaccine (which has to be kept at a low temperature), who to administer it to and how it’s monitored. There has been debate about conducting a randomised clinical trial, where some will get the advantage of having the vaccine and others will not, which, could be seen as unethical.
Some of the world’s biggest drug companies are working on trying to produce, which will hopefully be the beginning of the end to the world’s ongoing tragedy, the vaccine that will fight the Ebola virus.