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Since the end of 2013, Ebola — highly infectious and often and marked fever and severe internal bleeding — killed more than 11,300 West Africans.
The study and the experimental vaccine — called rVSV-ZEBOV — came in response to that outbreak. To identify people in Guinea at risk of contracting Ebola, researchers used a “ring vaccination” method inspired by the one used to wipe out smallpox in the 1970s. It works by immunizing immediate contacts — friends, family, neighbors — of a person who gets sick, effectively forming a ring to prevent transmission. About 11,000 people were vaccinated.
No one given the vaccine developed the virus after a 10-day incubation period, researchers reported in the study published in The Lancet. Just two patients suffered serious reactions to the vaccine, and no long-term issues were reported. Researchers are at work to determine how long the vaccine is effective for.
In the meantime, the vaccine, licensed by US firm Merck, has been fast-tracked for approval by regulators, CNN reports. The pharmaceutical company has promised to have 300,000 doses ready in case of emergency.
“While these compelling results come too late for those who lost their lives during West Africa’s Ebola epidemic, they show that when the next Ebola outbreak hits, we will not be defenseless,” said Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, the World Health Organization’s assistant director-general for health systems and innovation, and a lead author of the study. “When the next Ebola outbreak hits, we will not be defenseless.”