As the ebola virus spreading from the epicenter and threatens to explode across the region; the supply of Merck’s newly developed vaccine once expected to function as a silver bullet is dwindling; and likely to burn out before the outbreak does. As it striking global stockpile of a long anticipated vaccine was 300,000 doses. But the study going head-to-head in a bitter clash over the next line of attack.
The country’s health minister stepping down last week rather than bow to international pressure to also start using another vaccine that is much more experimental. The manufacturer, Johnson & Johnson, says it has 1.5 million doses on hand and is ready to start sending them to the region. Even if there were enough lifesaving vaccines to go around, the region’s violent conflict has made it virtually impossible for health workers to deliver the shots to every relative and neighbor of each Ebola victim.
Long anticipated vaccine
There is a level of panic lurking just below the surface or maybe it’s above the surface now. During the last Ebola outbreak, in West Africa in 2014 and 2015 , there was no vaccine immediately available, a reality that left every person susceptible. By the end, 28,600 people were infecting and more than 11,000 died. The Ebola virus causes leaky blood vessels and circulatory failure, which starves the body’s organs of oxygen leading to shock and multiple organ failure.
It spreads directly from person to person through infected blood, sweat and vomit. But that epidemic eventually became a testing ground for the Merck vaccine; which had been under development for more than a decade and was deployed to Guinea, where it showed positive results. The vaccine called V920 remains unlicensed but appears to be 97.5% effective; according to early data from the current outbreak.These vaccines were the silver lining of the 2014-2015 epidemic.
Ring vaccination technique
Health workers have administered more than 150,000 doses of the vaccine using a technique called ring vaccination; which prioritizes people who have had exposure to an Ebola victim; followed by expanding circles of their other contacts. Merck, which has 245,000 doses currently available for shipment from temperature-controlled U.S. warehouses; hopes to triple the cumulative supply to about 900,000 doses over the next 18 months.
In response to the shortage, WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization, or SAGE; recommending in May that health officials divide each of the remaining doses by at least half in order to immunize more people. More than a quarter of residents do not believe the outbreak is real; and many people see vaccines as a plot to spread a virus, not eradicate it.