As the Ebola epidemic turns into uncontrollable chaos, we have good news: the first vaccine has just been approved
The first human Ebola vaccine is here. Officially. The European Union has just approved Ervebo, the vaccine developed by Merck and the Canadian Public Health Agency. It is not a surprise, a few months ago the committee of the European Medicines Agency already recommended its authorization in the Union because there is an "unmet medical need".
However, in the middle of the hell that the epidemic of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has become, this news (added to the new treatments) comes as May water.
What is going on with Ebola?
Desperate, this summer the WHO declared a "global state of emergency" in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the hope of being able "to increase funds and resources to curb the epidemic." Unsuccessfully, it must be said.
Despite the fact that the number of deaths has already exceeded 2,000, the climate of mistrust among Congolese citizens fuels groups that think that Ebola simply does not exist. The situation has led to a healthcare hell with hundreds of attacks on facilities, dozens of injuries and more than ten murders.
The academic and research world was, meanwhile, in something else. "Finding a vaccine as soon as possible against this terrible virus has been a priority for the international community since Ebola hit West Africa five years ago," said Vytenis Andriukaitis, the European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety in the public announcement of the authorization. conditional marketing
What does "conditional marketing authorization" mean?
The first conditional marketing authorization was granted in 2006. It was a way to accelerate access to medicines for patients with unmet medical needs, to fight public health threats in emergencies, or to treat rare diseases.
In general, approving a medication is a very slow process that requires tons of data on its operation, effectiveness and safety. And it is for very good reasons, we have suffered enough health problems caused by medications that we did not know very well. However, on certain occasions, we need to be faster.
Conditional marketing authorizations are approved faster than normal authorizations and require less data to do so. Those necessary to make the cost benefit; that is, to ensure that they do more good than harm. They are not a widely used route. In the first decade, some 30 focused on life-threatening or seriously debilitating diseases (such as HIV infection, breast cancer, severe childhood epilepsy, or multidrug-resistant tuberculosis) were licensed.
And now that?
"Today's decision is a great step forward to save lives in Africa and beyond," said Commissioner Andriukaitis. And even in the complicated situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, we can say that he is right. Above all, because the Ervebo data is actually quite good: of the 100,000 people vaccinated in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, only 3 percent have developed the disease.
However, the authorization and implementation of all official mechanisms will not translate into an immediate halt to the epidemic. The WHO has already announced that there will be no doses available until mid-2020 and the vaccinations being carried out under an experimental program under patent conditions of precariousness.
Little by little, we are closing in on what has been one of the most alarming viruses in international public opinion for years. There is still a lot of work, but news like this is undoubtedly excellent news.