The 2014 to 2015 ebola outbreak in West Africa was a huge challenge to the World Health Organization as it scrambled to contain the spread of the deadly disease, send medical aid, and produce a vaccine. The outbreak recorded 28,616 cases and claimed the lives of 11,310 patients, even as health care workers struggled.
The scientific community, however, came through during the crisis with the development of the rVSV-EBOV vaccine, which protects vaccinated individuals from contracting the virus, leading to better survival rates than previous outbreaks. It is the people who exerted much effort that led to the development of the vaccine, for which the WHO celebrated on May 4.
WHO Thanks The People
The WHO gathered the leaders and representatives of the affected West African countries in Guinea to celebrate the collective efforts that led to successfully containing the most recent ebola outbreak.
In her opening remarks, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said that the rVSV-EBOV vaccine was the result of combined efforts from various entities that worked together for the development of the vaccine.
"This truly remarkable achievement is thanks to collaborative efforts of the Government of Guinea, health workers, local and international scientists, public and private entities, international donors and, above all, the thousands of people who consented to be vaccinated in this vaccine trial," Chan said.
She revealed that the overwhelming support shortened the time frame for developing and testing vaccines from the usual five to 10 years to just one year, adding that the show of collaborative effort was even more significant than the hunt for a badly needed vaccine.
Chan also expressed that, while scientists are still unsure of the ebola virus' pattern, especially what happens between outbreaks, the experience they gathered has been significantly helpful in the development of strategies for the next one.
"[Nearly] all experts agree that another outbreak is inevitable. When this occurs, the world will be far better prepared ... The strategy can have a significant impact, even if supplies of vaccine are initially limited," she said.
The Future Of Vaccine Production
The WHO's experience during the ebola outbreak led to the establishment of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, which aims to produce vaccines for the diseases considered as priority pathogens with the help of its $500 million funding.
Guinea's President Alpha Conde was also present at the event and expressed his continued support for the production of vaccines.
"We want this process to lead to the local production of drugs and vaccines in Africa," Conde said.