Margaret Chan, the director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), voiced her condemnation against the pharmaceutical industry for neglecting to create a vaccine for the Ebola virus, despite the disease having menaced West Africa for almost 40 years.
Chan slammed Big Pharma for causing the problem — simply put: the market-oriented pharmaceutical industry lacks incentive for coming out with a vaccine in a timely manner, because treating West Africans doesn’t bring in the money.
“Because Ebola has historically been confined to poor African nations. The R&D [Research and Development] incentive is virtually non-existent,” she said. “A profit-driven industry does not invest in products for markets that cannot pay. WHO has been trying to make this issue visible for ages. Now people can see for themselves.”
The World Health Organization announced in a statement that it will begin distribution of an experimental vaccine in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone by early 2015. More than 90 of the world’s leading scientists participated in the collaborative effort, from national and university research institutions, government health agencies, ministries of health and foreign affairs, national security councils, and several offices of Prime Ministers and Presidents.
Also participating in the research and development were drug regulatory authorities, the MSF (Doctors Without Borders) medical charity, funding agencies and foundations, the GAVI childhood immunization advocacy group, the African Development Bank, the European Investment Bank, and the World Bank Group.
No other country has so far contributed as much to global health care expertise in the Ebola crisis has Cuba. The small island nation with few financial resources and a population of only eleven million people has particularly exemplified a more effective way to tackle Ebola: With more than 4,000 medical workers already on the ground in Africa, by late October Cuba sent another 350 personnel, most of them doctors and all with specialized training.
After Cuba, the international organization Medecins Sans Frontieres also has deployed 270 international health care specialists working in the affected countries, while making an effort to contract locals as well.