BALTIMORE (WJZ) — As the scramble continues to contain the Ebola virus in Texas, some Maryland doctors are playing a major role in testing a vaccine for the disease.
Derek Valcourt spoke with some of the doctors who traveled to Africa to test a possible vaccine on the first humans.
Some of the world’s most outspoken infectious disease doctors think a vaccine is the only hope in the fight against Ebola.
In this vial, a candidate Ebola vaccine that many believe could be the best hope for stopping the deadly disease from spreading throughout the African continent. At the University of Maryland Centers for Vaccine Development, Dr. Milagritos Tapia and Dr. Myron Levine just returned from West Africa, where they helped supervise the first human tests of the candidate vaccine in the country of Mali—which has not seen an Ebola case yet, but neighbors the three Ebola-devastated countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Five healthcare workers were chosen to receive the test vaccine.
“They see themselves as someone who could be exposed to a real bona fide case of Ebola in Mali,” Tapia said.
The candidate vaccine was developed in Bethesda and, so far, tests on monkeys have shown high levels of protection.
“Although the protection goes down over months, that may be a tool in the short-term to be able to protect healthcare workers and to stop transmission,” Levine said.
Stopping transmission is key as the death toll continues to mount. Healthcare workers have made up 10% of all the West African Ebola deaths.
“And these countries have small numbers of healthcare workers to begin with and each one is a great loss to the system and to the society there,” said Dr. Adam Kushner, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
“If they don’t come to work, if they are afraid for themselves and their families, then all of the healthcare starts to dissolve in these three countries,” Levine said.
That’s why health officials have fast-tracked the vaccine trial process and made healthcare workers there the top priority.
The first five healthcare workers to be vaccinated are just a small step in the first phase of the vaccine trial. If all goes well, they will treat the vaccine on another 40 healthcare workers in the Ebola-devastated areas of Guinea, perhaps by the end of the year.
Canada is running trials on a second potential vaccine. They, too, are set to begin their first phase of testing on humans.
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