As headlines shift away from the Ebola outbreak that flourished in 2014, it’s easy to forget the disease that “sickened more than 200,000 people in West Africa, and killed at least 8,200, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).”
Although current data shows that the number of new cases is dropping in all three of the hardest-hit West African countries (Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea), and a recent study shows that Ebola could possibly be eliminated from the country of Liberia by June, scientists are working hard to create a vaccine for the disease.
“The idea of predicting infectious disease is relatively new. It’s not like weather predictions,” says Jeffrey Shaman, an associate professor at Mailman School of Public Health, in an interview with NPR. With this in mind, several companies are racing to test their experimental vaccines in an effort to put a standstill to the deadly disease.
Currently, there are three experimental vaccines that show signs of success. All three of them are being tested in humans in a remarkably fast pace due to the urgency of the situation.
The Top Three Most Promising Vaccinations
1. Johnson & Johnson’s Ebola Vaccine: The vaccine carries modified versions of a human cold virus and the smallpox virus, along with small parts of the genetic material of the Ebola virus. The little amount of Ebola contained may be enough to administer an immune response against the virus—meaning the body can find a way to resist the effects.
J & J started their Phase 1 trial to test the vaccine on healthy volunteers in the United Kingdom on Tuesday, Jan. 6. The purpose of the first round is to identify potential side effects of the drug before it’s administered to a larger group of people. The vaccine is being developed by J & J’s Janssen Pharmaceutical Cos. and Bavarian Nordic. Over 400,000 regimens of this vaccine have been produced that could then be used in larger trials by April.
2. GlaxoSmithKline’s Ebola Vaccine: This vaccine is further along in its development, having its Phase 1 results already published in The New England Journal of Medicine on Nov. 26, 2014. The research showed that the vaccine appeared to be effective in test subjects.
The study was done on 20 healthy adult volunteers within the United States who eventually produced antibodies against the Ebola virus. According to Reuters, Phase 2 of the trial on a larger group of people may begin in February in Africa.
3. Merck & Co.’s Ebola Vaccine: This vaccine experienced some complications in its Phase 1 trials when one of the volunteers began to experience joint pain. Testing was immediately stopped, and resumed later on when the symptoms resolved without treatment, according to the University of Geneva hospital in Switzerland.
A lower dosage of the vaccine is now being administered in trials. There has long been a debate on the urgency of a vaccine development for this deadly infectious virus in the past—which you can read all about here.
But, with monetary and medical complications pushed to the side, a safe and effective Ebola vaccination is well on its way to being used in the real world. The Ebola vaccine is expected to be available for mass use in summer 2015 at the earliest, according to the WHO.
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