-- Though Ebola was first discovered nearly four decades ago, there’s still no vaccine that’s regularly administered to humans to prevent it.
“There’s always the layperson’s query of ‘Why don’t they rush this?’ ‘Why don’t these guys work a little later at night?’” said Dr. Willian Schaffner, chair of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. “It’s a little more complicated than that.”
Because Ebola cases are so rare, drug manufacturers hadn’t been interested in investing in finding its vaccine, Schaffner said. In addition, Ebola’s rarity makes it impossible for scientists to do field studies, which they were able to do with viruses like measles, which people were likely to be exposed to anyway because it was so common.
The dire situation in Africa has prompted more than 4,500 people to sign a Change.org petition to fast track Ebola vaccines and drugs within the U.S. Food and Drug Administration -- something that’s actually been in the works since March, Fauci said.
The NIH’s Ebola vaccine has been studied in monkeys and is set to begin its first phase I clinical trial in humans sometime in September, Fauci said. If it is successful, it will take until mid- to late-2015 before a limited number of vaccine doses would be ready to administer to health care workers, he said.
Since the locals already fear the health care workers, wrongly blaming them for bringing Ebola to their villages, Schaffner and Fauci said making sure the vaccine is safe is extremely important.
“That’s the case whenever you have terror and fright and death and people being extraordinarily frightened of things they don’t understand,” Fauci said.