LOS ANGELES (December 28, 2016) – Today AHF lauded the publication of clinical trial results in the journal Lancet which showed 100% efficacy in preventing Ebola virus infection among study participants who received an experimental vaccine in Sierra Leone and Guinea.
An international consortium of scientists set out to test the effectiveness of a candidate vaccine known as rVSV-ZEBOV in an open-label, cluster-randomized trial involving over 9,000 participants during the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2015.
Of 3,775 participants who received the vaccine immediately after being placed in a study group, zero patients developed Ebola 10 days or more after vaccination. In the control arm of 4,507 participants—which included those who did not get vaccinated right away, or developed Ebola symptoms less than 10 days after vaccination—23 people became infected. Thus, the study concluded, “immediate vaccination resulted in complete protection against subsequent onset of Ebola virus disease 10 days later or more.”
“We applaud the researchers for the groundbreaking work on rVSV-ZEBOV. The discovery of a vaccine for Ebola—one of the deadliest viruses in the world—is a tremendous achievement for global public health and security that will help save many lives and protect communities,” said Michael Weinstein, AHF President. “It shows that spending money on treating and curing infectious diseases is one of the very best investments that the world can make. It’s not something we should be pinching pennies on. Every year the world collectively spends almost $2 trillion on defense and only $36 billion on Development Assistance for Health, a fraction of which goes toward fighting infectious diseases like Ebola, Zika and SARS, which themselves are a threat to national security of every state.”
The West Africa Ebola virus outbreak impacted AHF programs in the region, particular in Sierra Leone where the organization has been supporting HIV treatment and testing programs since 2009. Tragically, AHF lost two physicians to Ebola: Dr. Sheik Humarr Khan, the physician who had been leading Sierra Leone’s response to Ebola in 2014 and who also served as Medical Officer for AHF’s Country Program there, died July 29, 2014; and Dr. John Taban Dada, a Ugandan national living and working in Monrovia, Liberia, who died from Ebola on Oct. 9, 2014.
At the height of the outbreak AHF donated a large shipment of personal protective equipment and supplies to help support the Ebola response in Sierra Leone. AHF was also vocal in urging the World Health Organization leadership in Geneva to take charge of the Ebola response after it delayed declaring the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern.
Subsequently, AHF Global Public Health Ambassador, Dr. Jorge Saavedra was invited by the Harvard School of Public Health to sit on an independent panel of experts chaired by Dr. Peter Piot, the co-discoverer of the Ebola virus and Dean of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, to review the shortfalls in WHO’s response to the crisis and provide a list of recommendations to improve global preparedness for future outbreaks. In 2016, the panel findings were published in the Lancet (click here to read the report).
“While I was visiting AHF´s programs in Sierra Leone in June, 2015, I had the opportunity to interview many Ebola first responders. Although most of them recognized that the initial involvement of the WHO was late and uncoordinated, they also said the role of civil society had been essential for the initial control of the epidemic,” said Dr. Saavedra. “They expressed an urgent need for a cure or an effective vaccine and hopefully this latest discovery will answer that need. We have to remember that global solidarity and energetic vertical approaches are still needed when dealing with infectious diseases that do not respect country borders. The lessons learned from the Ebola outbreak need to be applied to Zika, Malaria and many other neglected tropical diseases that affect global public health; and why not HIV and TB, if the world is serious about ending these too?”
The AFP infographic shows that In 2013 World military spending accounted for $1.75 trillion, while only about $36 billion was spend on Development Assistance for Health, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) data.