Viewpoint: The Ebola Vaccine We Needed

Monday, August 17, 2015

About 27,000 people in West Africa have been infected with the Ebola virus and more than 11,000 of them have died since the outbreak began last year. Many could have been saved if an effective vaccine had been available. But the world relies on drug companies to create new vaccines and medications, and they have no financial incentive to do so for diseases that mostly affect poor countries. Clearly, the world needs a better mechanism for vaccine development.

It was only after the Ebola outbreak last year — and public alarm in the United States and Europe following the infection of a few Western health workers and visitors to West Africa — that scientists were spurred to develop potential vaccines that had been in the works for years. Trials in Guinea indicate one new vaccine is highly effective. While this is good news, it comes too late for thousands of Ebola’s victims.

Beyond Ebola, there are other diseases that could spark deadly epidemics. The MERS virus already caused an outbreak in South Korea this year. Another deadly respiratory disease, SARS; Chikungunya; and West Nile virus are also of concern.

Last month, the New England Journal of Medicine published a bold proposal by three doctors for an international vaccine fund with an initial capitalization of $2 billion. That is far less than the $8 billion that Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, which had the most Ebola cases, say they need for recovery. Bringing a single new vaccine to market costs between $500 million and $1 billion.

Source: The New York Times (link opens in a new window)

Health Care
infectious diseases, vaccines