Why a breakthrough in the quest for an effective Ebola vaccine took so long

The preliminary result of a trial of the novel rVSV-ZEBOV Ebola virus vaccine showed 100% vaccine efficacy in preventing Ebola virus in close contacts of infected individuals.

The trials were conducted during the outbreak in Guinea and the vaccine could potentially bring the West African epidemic to an end.

But why has it taken so long to get to this point?

CapeTalk and 702 Presenter Africa Melane spoke with Jens Pedersen Humanitarian Policy Advisor at Doctors Without Borders (MSF).

Pedersen argues that global interest in Ebola was delayed because of the hesitance from the international community to recognise the need to develop medical products.

The preliminary results are certainly encouraging. It is a positive sign that, after a lot of investment and attention on Ebola, tools are finally made available.

Jens Pedersen, MSF Humanitarian Policy Advisor

3 reasons for delays in action and effort directed at Ebola vaccination:

1. According to Pedersen, attention was not initially given to Ebola when it broke in West African regions.

He says interest was only shown once the outbreak spread to other parts of Europe and America.

2. Pedersen advises that world organisations were also unprepared for the outbreak, and showed reluctance as a result.

UN, WHO were inherently unprepared and terribly reluctant to respond on the scale needed for this outbreak.

Jens Pedersen, MSF Humanitarian Policy Advisor

3. Local issues, such a conflict and the lack of medical capacity in the affected countries, have also affected the treatment of the virus, according to Pedersen.

There have been a total of 27,748 cases of Ebola in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone up to 26 July, with 11,279 reported deaths, although the outcome of many cases is unknown and the toll will be significantly higher.

Pedersen says the next step is to make the vaccine available to Sierra Leone and Liberia and to further develop the drug to population scale and pharmaceutical access levels.

Listen to the full conversation, with Africa Melane standing in, on The Redi Tlhabi Show:

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