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Ebola, in the Congo we are close to an effective vaccine?

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Amit Kumar
Amit Kumar is the editor-in-chief and founder of Revyuh.com. He has been shaping the future of Revyuh.com in terms of content, text, and personnel. He is also a member of the Online News Association - ONA and the Society of Professional Journalists - SPJ. When he's not writing, Amit enjoys watching Netflix, embarrassing himself with chess, or you'll find him exploring the world’s largest general scientific society The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Currently, Amit lives in New Delhi, India. Email: amit.kumar (at) revyuh (dot) com ICE : 00 91 (0) 99580 61723

With approximately 1,290 cases and 830 deaths, the epidemic of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo it is the second largest on record, second only to that exploded in 2014 it hit six West African states, causing 30 thousand cases and 11 thousand deaths. The new epidemic, limited to the Congo, has spread since August 2018, immediately after the previous one had been declared ended. Effective weapons to combat the spread of the epidemic are already there: the recently developed experimental vaccine has proved effective.

The preliminary results of the effectiveness of the drug, called rVsv-Ebov-Gp, have just been published in a document of the World Health Organization. In this case, therefore, there is already a vaccine and a path, the one recommended in the WHO text, to control the epidemic. However, the difficulty will be in implementing this strategy, due to the complex political situation, in a context of war and with clashes between local and government authorities.

The data on the effectiveness of the vaccine are already available, in addition to the shadows, there are also some lights: today the authorities, including the World Health Organization (WHO), state that the  recently developed experimental vaccine is effective in 97, 5% of cases. The preliminary results of the efficacy of the drug, called rVsv-Ebov-Gp, have just been published in a WHO document.

The drug contains a live attenuated virus engineered to express a glycoprotein of the Ebola virus : in this way it causes an immune system response aimed at neutralizing this component. So far, the vaccination has been administered to more than 90 thousand people, including 30 thousand health workers, probably saving thousands of lives. The researchers chose a so-called ring vaccination strategy, that is starting from the groups in which there is one or more ebola cases, to then reach people who have come into contact with these groups and so on.

Among the vaccinated people, only 8.8% developed Ebola and only 2.2% after 10 days of vaccine administration. Most of the individuals who had Ebola were in the high-risk contact group , meaning they were most likely coming into contact with the virus. While only twice in the whole illness did it affect the contacts of the contacts , ie the third link in the risk chain. This result indicates that the vaccination prevents infection in the third level of contact almost 100%. Combining these and other results, the vaccine’s efficacy was measured and was 97.5%. “This is an essential test for controlling the epidemic”,reads the WHO document, “because it provides evidence on the role of ring vaccination with rVSV-ZEBOV-GP”. In short, the vaccine has proved to be effective and it is essential to offer it to Ebola population groups, including people who came into contact (including contact contacts).

The epidemic that began in August 2018 mainly affected the provinces of North Kivu and Ituri of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Even if it is a serious epidemic, the Emergency Committee, meeting on 12 April 2019 by the WHO, declared that it is not an international public health emergency. However, this committee has expressed concern about the recent increase in cases of infection in specific areas and there is a potential risk that the epidemic will spread even in neighboring states, another reason not to lower the guard. In this case, unfortunately, to make it all more complicated is the presence of a difficult political situation, the presence of a war context and clashes between rioters and government forces.

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