Guineans help to develop Ebola vaccine
The head of the World Health Organization praised Guineans yesterday for their role in helping to develop a vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus, as Guinea's president said he hoped the vaccine could eventually be produced in Africa.
During a visit to the country where the deadliest Ebola epidemic ever first emerged, Dr Margaret Chan met with health workers who were critical in the fight against the virus. More than 11,300 people died across West Africa before the outbreak was finally declared over last year.
Chan said Guineans had "fought back" by taking part in the vaccine trials despite the widespread fear of international health workers that was prevalent during the Ebola crisis. With no specific drugs approved to treat Ebola, patients could only be isolated, and the death rate was high.
While the vaccine can only protect against contracting the disease and can't treat it, health officials have praised the vaccine's development as a major milestone.
WHO has said some 300,000 doses of the vaccine will initially be made available in case of another outbreak.
Guinean President Alpha Conde said he wants the vaccine and others like it to be produced in Africa.
"We want this process to lead to the local production of drugs and vaccines in Africa," he said at the event.
The Ebola virus first turned up on the continent in 1976 and had caused periodic outbreaks mostly in central Africa before the West Africa epidemic began in 2013. Previous attempts at a vaccine failed, in part due to the sporadic nature of outbreaks and funding shortages.
The West African epidemic allowed researchers to test the vaccine's efficacy on about 5,800 people, all of whom had some contact with an Ebola patient. The vaccine, which contains no live virus, proved so effective that the study was stopped midway so that everyone exposed to Ebola in Guinea could be immunised.