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July 9, 2015

Scientists test new Ebola vaccine under tough conditions


Months after the end of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, scientists are creating a vaccine in the hopes of preventing another.

An experimental vaccine contains a piece of the Ebola virus, which provokes an immune response to create antibodies for Ebola. The Sierra Leone Ministry of Health, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the medical college in Freetown, Liberia, partnered to create the trial.

A vaccine would have a huge effect on the areas the virus ravaged, killing whole families along with health workers that provided care to victims.

“Some families were essentially wiped out as a result of this thing. And if this vaccine proves out to be something that prevents such in the future, then words cannot describe how much relief that would be to this community,” pharmacist Morrison Jusu, who is helping research the vaccine, said.

But there are several barriers to creating the vaccine. Testing conditions are difficult in Sierra Leone, where resources like electricity are limited. And many people are reluctant to try the vaccine for fear they will contract Ebola, Samai said.

“A lot of people were not willing to come forward there in the first week to take the vaccine, because they thought they should wait and see what happens,” he said.

The current trials will show whether an Ebola vaccine in development is safe and whether it will produce the correct immune response, along with side effects like fever, muscle pain, joint pain and rashes, Kieh said.

But since there is no current Ebola epidemic, it is difficult to fully determine the vaccine’s effectiveness, Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said. “If we are successful in controlling Ebola, we won’t be successful in determining whether the vaccines are effective at preventing Ebola,” he said.

Warm up questions
  1. Why do we get vaccinated?
  2. What diseases have you been vaccinated against?
Critical thinking questions
  1. Why are some people better able to fight off Ebola than others?
  2. Why is the vaccine being introduced now, even though the Ebola epidemic has mostly dissipated?
  3. Why did it take so long for the experimental vaccine to have a trial in West Africa?
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