The deadliest Ebola outbreak in history began in West Africa in late 2013 and has killed more than 10,000 people, mainly in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. Thousands of healthcare workers in areas of Sierra Leone who are grappling with Ebola will now begin receiving an experimental vaccine, rVSV-ZEBOV, against the often deadly virus. The vaccine candidate has been developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada and licensed to NewLink Genetics and Merck pharmaceuticals.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said, "It will be given to 6,000 healthcare workers and other front line personnel in the fight against Ebola over the coming months. The vaccine trial, known as STRIVE (Sierra Leone Trial to Introduce a Vaccine against Ebola), is being conducted in Freetown, the Western Area Rural district and certain chiefdoms in Bombali, Port Loko, and Tonkolili districts. These study locations were selected because they have been heavily affected by the Ebola outbreak in the past few months."
So far, the vaccine has already been studied in more than 800 people as part of ongoing vaccine trials in Africa, Canada, Europe, and the United States. Reportedly, the vaccine appears to be safe and those who take it show an immune response to Ebola. However, it remains unclear if the vaccine can prevent Ebola infection, and if it does, how much protection it may provide. Therefore people who take it must still follow all precautionary measures to avoid Ebola infection, such as covering their skin, mouth, nose and eyes and not coming in direct contact with the bodily fluids of those who are ill.
Anne Schuchat, director of CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said, "The vaccine cannot cause Ebola virus disease but can potentially stimulate an immune response to protect against the disease. We don't know whether this vaccine will be the Ebola prevention tool we're all eager for, but we hope that what we learn from STRIVE will help us save lives during this and future Ebola outbreaks."