The W.H.O. – World Health Organisation – has announced that a vaccine may be ready as early as this coming December for treating at the very least all the health workers struggling to deal with the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.
The disease certainly appears to be bordering on spiralling out of control and some fear that the personnel and resources being poured into the fight now by the western world may indeed be too late.
The three countries worst affected are facing an outbreak that is directly threatening a further 15 neighbouring states and this threat may not diminish until the world has an effective vaccine. London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine director Professor Peter Piot was one of the scientists who discovered the virus many years ago.
His scathing remarks about the lacklustre western response in the past three months – before the pandemic got so bad – stated that more vigorous intervention at that time would have helped contain the outbreak far more easily.
Instead he maintains that the U.N. and others allowed the Ebola virus to rampage unchecked for far too long. So widespread is the disease now in the worst affected countries that none of the measures previously employed to halt the outbreak are likely to work. Only a vaccine can make a real difference now.
Despite the insistence of health officials in the U.K., the U.S.A. and Europe that populations in these countries face only a very low risk of being infected with the Ebola virus the danger is still very real. The U.S. Centre for Disease Control director Doctor Tom Frieden has publicly stated that the epidemic must be contained and defeated at source in West Africa.
This is echoed by U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron who let it be known that three different vaccines are now undergoing urgent early safety trials on volunteers. This is happening in the U.K. and the U.S .and if positive could be made available by December.
Should healthcare workers be given a vaccination before Christmas, the following few weeks will see very close monitoring of their health status. Should the numbers being infected drop significantly then the vaccines could be rolled out more widely before other countries like the Ivory Coast, Guinea Bissau and Mali become affected by the epidemic.
Piot believes the prospects for an effective vaccine to be excellent and he is very optimistic. Of course the manufacturers are faced with massively increasing their rate of production and the actual vaccination programme itself would be the biggest ever undertaken in Africa. All the same this is a really hopeful sign that the tide may at last be turning in the fight against this killer disease.
Image Via http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ebola_virus_disease#mediaviewer/File:EbolaCycle.png
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