When the Ebola epidemic erupted in West Africa in 2014, some worried that the disease could take hold in the U.S., too. That’s because Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian citizen, was diagnosed with Ebola while he was visiting family in Dallas. His was the first case in the U.S., and though Ebola didn’t spread here, it did make the need for treatment and prevention seem all the more urgent. Now, five years later, the World Health Organization has “pre-qualified” a new Ebola vaccine which means it will likely be distributed widely, where needed.
Thomas Geisbert is a professor of microbiology at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. He worked on an earlier version of the Ebola vaccine. He says the current vaccine has already been used to stem an ongoing outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a campaign the WHO has deemed successful.
“I think there’s been over 200,000 people vaccinated so far,” he says. “It’s basically kind of built like a decoy, so when we put the vaccine into a person, your body actually thinks it’s real Ebola virus and it’s not, so you build up a very strong and robust immune response.”
What you’ll hear in this segment:
– Why it’s taken so long to develop and distribute an Ebola vaccine
– How this current vaccine is different than earlier versions
– Where the new Ebola vaccine is distributed, and to whom
– Whether the vaccine will eradicate Ebola
Written by Caroline Covington.