When Ebola struck West Africa a few years ago, the world was defenseless. There was no cure. No vaccine. And the result was catastrophic: More than 11,000 people died. Nearly 30,000 were infected.
Now it looks like such a large outbreak is unlikely to ever happen again. Ever. The world now has a potent weapon against Ebola: a vaccine that brings outbreaks to a screeching halt, scientists report in The Lancet.
“We were able to estimate the efficacy of the vaccine as being 100 percent in a trial,” says Ira Longini, a biostatistician at the University of Florida, who helped test the vaccine.
The 100% value reflects the fact that they just haven’t tested the vaccine on enough people yet. So it is likely to decrease as the vaccine is used over time. In the end, the efficacy is likely to sit somewhere between about 70 percent and 100 percent, Longini says. By comparison, the flu vaccine last year was about 50 percent effective.
And the Ebola vaccine works lightning fast, within four or five days, he says. So it could even be given after a person is exposed to Ebola but hasn’t yet developed the disease.