Game changer
July 31, 2015 6:59 AM   Subscribe

New Ebola vaccine shows 100% success rate in clinical trial. Today the World Health Organization has announced that the rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine had a 100% success rate in preventing onset of the disease if administered within 10 days of exposure (n=4,000). In response to the current outbreak in West Africa that has afflicted over 27,000 and killed over 11,000, this collaborative effort led by the WHO pushed the vaccine through a process that usually takes more than a decade in just 12 months. Official paper from The Lancet here (pdf).
posted by Ufez Jones (23 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
 
Damn, science is so awesome.
posted by Dr. Zira at 7:01 AM on July 31, 2015 [10 favorites]


Good news everyone!

The anti-vaxxer are going to give birth to a cow!
posted by eriko at 7:09 AM on July 31, 2015 [12 favorites]


While viral mutations make this a bit of a moving target, this remains wonderful news.

Here's hoping that it will be capable of mass production at reasonable costs, and not one of those "there are ten doses of this antivenom in the world" kinds of remedies.
posted by delfin at 7:10 AM on July 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


Beyond awesome, this is a major advance and some people on these teams are probably going to be in Stockholm sometime soon to accept some Nobel prizes.
posted by vuron at 7:14 AM on July 31, 2015 [4 favorites]


Great. Now Bill Gates or someone, put funds in place for this to be freely available to poor people in Africa so we can show the world we're not always arseholes.
posted by iotic at 7:14 AM on July 31, 2015


That's amazing, but I assume that it's going to be a bit of a challenge to administer it to the right people.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:15 AM on July 31, 2015


The vaccine was developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada, with financial support from other governments and NGOs. It's licensed to Merck, but I'm assuming that the terms of the license are going to make it affordable for the people who need it the most.

So much for the idea that only for-profit corporations can be nimble and innovative.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:21 AM on July 31, 2015 [52 favorites]


This is great news, and evidence of immense effort and resource contribution from the WHO, Norway, Canada, MSF, and other NGO partners. Really very impressive.
posted by Wretch729 at 7:31 AM on July 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


> The vaccine was developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada, with financial support from other governments and NGOs. It's licensed to Merck, but I'm assuming that the terms of the license are going to make it affordable

A&C, I was going to say exactly that, but my read is more pessimistic, maybe. The Guardian article ends with:

The rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine is sometimes known as the Canadian vaccine as it was originally developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada before being sold to Merck to bring [sic] conclude the testing.

That worries me a bit.

But yes, kudos to all concerned - this is unexpectedly great news. And as an aside, MSF just keeps impressing me with their work. That's heroic stuff, to wade into a region with an Ebola outbreak to try to contain it, when you could instead safely take a vacation a continent or two away.
posted by RedOrGreen at 7:33 AM on July 31, 2015 [3 favorites]


The rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine is sometimes known as the Canadian vaccine as it was originally developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada before being sold to Merck

I suspect that the Public Health Agency of Canada doesn't have the resources to mass-produce the vaccine and needed a commercial partner to do so.

this collaborative effort led by the WHO pushed the vaccine through a process that usually takes more than a decade in just 12 months

Puts me in mind of this xkcd comic.
posted by jedicus at 7:55 AM on July 31, 2015 [13 favorites]


Cautiously optimistic!
posted by LegallyBread at 7:55 AM on July 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is great news, but a snarky part of me can't help being reminded of this meme.
posted by HunkeredUp at 8:02 AM on July 31, 2015 [7 favorites]


I suspect that the Public Health Agency of Canada doesn't have the resources to mass-produce the vaccine and needed a commercial partner to do so.
At least according to the Wikipedia article, it's a little more complicated than that. Before the current outbreak, the Public Health Agency of Canada sold the licence for $200,000 to a really small American company to do clinical trials. (The company, NewLink, appears to be the commercial wing of a university lab at Iowa State University.) NewLink doesn't have commercial production facilities. After the current outbreak, NewLink sold production rights to Merck for $50 million. So the folks at NewLink got really rich, and who knows what the terms of their deal with Merck are. That's sort of alarming, but I assume that there will be more reporting on this soon.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:03 AM on July 31, 2015 [6 favorites]


Puts me in mind of this xkcd comic.

Which has one of my favorite hover/title lines ever.
posted by Ufez Jones at 8:07 AM on July 31, 2015 [5 favorites]


Right--Merck should pay $50 million for it, ramp up production, produce, store and distribute the medicine and then sell it at a loss. This is not a vaccine that is going to be widely distributed to large populations where costs can be spread over a huge number of people/governments. if one is concerned about making it affordable to at risk populations it may make more sense for an international consortium of NGOs/Foundations/Governments to collectively negotiate with Merck to purchase it than complain about the company bringing it to market
posted by rmhsinc at 8:44 AM on July 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


!
posted by Going To Maine at 9:08 AM on July 31, 2015


Wow. Amazing!
posted by persona au gratin at 9:51 AM on July 31, 2015


At a time, Merck was the opposite of Big Pharma as it's known today in the likes of Pfizer. They worked under the aegis of "people before profits."

But that was also a long time ago.
posted by destro at 10:14 AM on July 31, 2015


Administering it to all of the people who need it will be a challenge - and potentially impossible, with the health care system that Africa has. But it still has the potential make a huge difference. Just consider the difference this could make for the health care system if there was a vaccine available to health care workers.

Also, it's worth pointing out that there is a big divide between urban and rural in West Africa in terms of access to (and knowledge of) health care. There was a lot of news about distrust of the health care system, but people who live in the cities know what vaccines are, and post-exposure treatment for diseases like rabies are available at hospitals. Ebola didn't just hit isolated villages, but cities as well.

Like, major drug companies don't deserve any benefit of the doubt; we should watch their actions like hawks. But this development really is amazing and shouldn't be poo-pooed because it won't do any good.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 10:27 AM on July 31, 2015


Beyond awesome, this is a major advance and some people on these teams are probably going to be in Stockholm sometime soon to accept some Nobel prizes.

From a medical perspective I'm not sure that's the case - does anyone have a good link about the vaccine development itself? The trial was well done, but not novel - it was based on the smallpox vaccine work. Is the vaccine novel?

However WHO, the Public Health Agency of Canada, Wellcome, and the people of Guinea might be elligible for a Peace Prize.
"This is Guinea’s gift to West Africa and the world,” said Dr Sakoba Keita, Guinea's national coordinator for the Ebola response. "The thousands of volunteers from Conakry and other areas of Lower Guinea, but also the many Guinean doctors, data managers and community mobilisers have contributed to finding a line of defence against a terrible disease."
Indeed, a wonderful gift. The people of Guinea took a great risk to test this vaccine. (Also thanks to the organization, research, and funding is doe to the people of Norway, Canada, the US, the UK, as well as WHO and Doctors w/o Borders, but the people who volunteered their bodies for the trial are AMAZING.)
posted by maryr at 10:41 AM on July 31, 2015 [6 favorites]


I had heard this on the news but did not know that it was effective for those already exposed, at least for those exposed ten days or less past. Damn, I love living in the future.
posted by Morrigan at 6:46 PM on July 31, 2015


Awesome that this is from Merck. Regarding People Before Profits, maybe remember that Merck has been donating medicine to prevent river blindness for over 25 years.
posted by Sublimity at 7:50 PM on July 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


I hope this works well and is a huge success. From a public relations side alone, I hope it reaches the people in the affected areas for free, and any profits are earned selling it to worried westerners.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:02 PM on July 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


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