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Ebola Reappears in Congo and Vaccine is Readied for Crucial Test

ebolapatient( – After a deadly Ebola epidemic two years ago, scientists not only developed a vaccine, but it appears to be 100 percent effective. Now, as a new Ebola outbreak is rattling the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the vaccine may finally get a crucial real world test.

Initially, when the vaccine was announced, a panel of scientists from the US National Academy of Medicine challenged the methodology of the vaccine’s 4,160-patient trial in Guinea. In a 287-page report, they concluded that while the vaccine “most likely provides some protection to recipients” that protection “could in reality be quite low.”

An Ebola outbreak in the DRC might be the vaccine’s ultimate proving ground. So far, there have been two confirmed cases and 17 other suspected ones, with three dead among them, according to the World Health Organization.

This week, the organization said that it is now making preparations to use the controversial vaccine, though it has not yet made a firm decision on whether to deploy it.

The outbreak has so far not been identified beyond a remote, isolated area.  But it took three weeks for experts to identify the disease, meaning it could have already spread much more widely than is presently known.

Health experts are investigating how the virus resurfaced in Congo after killing 49 people in 2014. It is the country’s ninth outbreak—more than any other nation—since Ebola was first detected there in 1976 and named after the River Ebola that flows through the nation’s forested lowlands.

Some 300,000 emergency doses of the new vaccine are on hand, should WHO and others decide it is necessary.

In December, doctors from the World Health Organization, Doctors Without Borders and others reported in the medical journal The Lancet that the vaccine was 100 percent effective at preventing people from contracting Ebola’s deadly hemorrhagic fever once it kicked in, when tested during the West African epidemic. That outbreak saw more than 28,000 Ebola cases and more than 11,000 deaths.

There are now 12 Ebola vaccines in development, and the Merck vaccine is the furthest along. The Congo outbreak in all likelihood will not come close to approaching the levels of the West African crisis—the worst Ebola outbreak in history.

The vaccine was developed by the pharmaceutical company Merck and NewLink Genetics.

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