LONDON: A Canadian-developed experimental vaccine tested on thousands of people in Guinea exposed to Ebola is “highly effective,” interim results report Friday.
The vaccine was 100 per cent effective when it was tested on more than 4,000 people who were in close contact with Ebola patients in the African nation of Guinea, the World Health Organization said, citing a study published in the Lancet medical journal. The trial began on March 23.
The VSV-EBOV vaccine was developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada and licensed to NewLink Genetics Corp. In November, Merck & Co. entered in an agreement to research, develop and distribute the drug.
“This is an extremely promising development,” Margaret Chan, director-general of the WHO, said in the statement. “An effective vaccine will be another very important tool for both current and future Ebola outbreaks.”
The WHO described the vaccine as “highly effective” in the review by an independent body of international experts.
Ebola has killed more than 11,000 people in West Africa following an outbreak at the end of 2013. While the incidence has fallen off sharply, it hasn’t been eradicated, with seven confirmed cases in the week of July 29.
If proven effective, the vaccine could be “a game-changer,” said Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization, which sponsored the trial.
In some 4,000 people who received the vaccine within 10 days of being identified as an Ebola contact, there were no cases of the disease. That compared with 16 cases in more than 3,500 people who only got the shot after 10 days.
The review panel said the results showed the importance of moving quickly to the next stage of testing.
The drug from Merck is one of several vaccines in clinical trials, with GlaxoSmithKline Plc and Novavax Inc. also developing medicines.
There is currently no licensed treatment or vaccine for Ebola, which has so far killed more than 11,000 people since the world’s biggest outbreak began last year.