From The Guardian:
The results of the trials involving 4,000 people are remarkable because of the unprecedented speed with which the development of the vaccine and the testing were carried out.
Scientists, doctors, donors and drug companies collaborated to race the vaccine through a process that usually takes more than a decade in just 12 months.
“Having seen the devastating effects of Ebola on communities and even whole countries with my own eyes, I am very encouraged by today’s news”, said Børge Brende, the foreign minister of Norway, which helped fund the trial.
“This new vaccine, if the results hold up, may be the silver bullet against Ebola, helping to bring the current outbreak to zero and to control future outbreaks of this kind. I would like to thank all partners who have contributed to achieve this sensational result, due to an extraordinary and rapid collaborative effort”, he said on Friday.
To test how well the vaccine protected people, the cluster outbreaks were randomly assigned either to receive the vaccine immediately or three weeks after Ebola was confirmed. Among the 2,014 people vaccinated immediately, there were no cases of Ebola from 10 days after vaccination — allowing time for immunity to develop — according to the results published online in the Lancet medical journal (pdf). In the clusters with delayed vaccination, there were 16 cases out of 2,380.
In another precedent-breaker, the trial was sponsored by the World Health Organisation because “nobody wanted to step into this role so we took the risk”, said assistant director-general, Dr Marie-Paule Kieny.
Funding came from the Wellcome Trust and other partners including the governments of Norway and Canada. Others involved included Médecins sans Frontières, whose volunteer doctors were on the frontline, and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. About 90% of the trial staff were from Guinea, a country where no clinical research had been carried out before. The vaccine is made by Merck.
The data will soon go to regulatory agencies for licensing purposes, after which it can be produced and stockpiled for any future Ebola epidemics. Thus far the plan is to use it only for those most at risk in outbreaks, rather than administered to entire populations. Here is hoping everything pans out.
It is heartening to see some good come out of this horrific epidemic, which killed thousands and devastated some of the world’s poorest and most beleaguered communities. This global effort, which brought together agencies, governments, foundations, and medical experts from around the world, is just a small but inspiring sample of what humanity is capable of when we put our best minds and resources together.
This is also a reminder of why I am a proud supporter of Medicins Sans Frontieres, better known to English-speakers as Doctors Without Borders. Not only were its brave staff at the frontlines of this harrowing epidemic, but its expertise helped make this sorely needed vaccine a reality. With high marks across the board by every major charity evaluator, its donations are definitely money well spent.