A vaccination for the future

By | News & Politics
The handing over of 400 bikes to Ebola Response by the German ambassador is just one example of the international cooperation in response to Ebola. Credit@UNMEER.

Two experimental vaccines are undergoing large-scale trials in Liberia whilst the level of new cases of Ebola is at 144 new cases on the week of 12th February. The amount of weekly new cases has reduced from the levels which saw 9,268 people pass away, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). It is believed that many health authorities across the world are looking to learn lessons from the West African outbreak in how to effectively prevent any future challenges with Ebola.

Ebola cases have been found in numerous West African countries including Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal and Mali. These effected countries have seen significant increases in aid from organisations such as Médecins Sans Frontières and from governments in the form of medical workers and supplies. The presence of medical workers in the country, who have played an important role in reducing the number of cases, has led to some being treated for Ebola themselves in their home countries such as the United Kingdom, United States and Spain.

Government and non-government organisations (NGO) have worked together to increase the number of clinics and burial teams whilst also working together to bring in more medical workers into the affected countries, according to USAID. The situation has seen medical workers from healthcare services around the world, such as the UK’s NHS, travel to West Africa in an attempt to provide care and assistance to the people that Ebola has been effecting. An education effort has helped prevent the spread of Ebola as citizens of the countries were made aware of local burial ceremonies that actually caused a rise in cases. Through creating awareness about preventative measures that people may have been able to take, the various organisations have been able to reduce the amount of new cases.

The reaction to Ebola by both government organisations and NGOs has played an important role in minimising the outbreak. The willingness of countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom to offer military personnel to provide on-the-ground care as well as the provision of supplies and money by the Netherlands amongst many other countries has provided resources with which Ebola might be effectively combated. NGOs such as Save the Children, International Rescue Committee, American Red Cross, Africare and ActionAid have also provided important support; be it with frontier healthcare, supplies and provisions or care for survivors and children effected by Ebola. There are many organisations that have played a valuable role in providing support to countries affected by Ebola and those mentioned are just a few of the organisations involved.

The trials of the vaccination that it is hoped may provide immunisation against Ebola, began trials earlier this month. The trial involves injecting 12 volunteers with a vaccine containing a small, harmless amount of Ebola. The aim of the vaccination is to convince the body in giving an immune response and more people may be vaccinated as the trial goes on. Scientists aims to immunise 30,000 volunteers including frontline health workers and may allow the effective healthcare to be provided with reduced precaution needed in regards to contact with patients. The vaccines have had safety trials both in the United Kingdom and in Switzerland and the two potential vaccinations are being tested in MSF clinics in West Africa.

Ebola has appeared to highlight the benefits of international cooperation through the various degrees of support that countries across the world have provided to the effected region. Furthermore, the role of NGOs in frontline care in situations like this is important due to their coordination, often with health services already in the country, in providing effective and efficient support to people in these countries. The possibility of a working vaccine may offer an opportunity for the prevention of similar Ebola outbreaks and may go some way in improving the situation in many of the effected countries. Whilst there may have been progress made towards reducing the number of cases, there might be continued focus until the total number of new cases is zero and vigilance to prevent a similar situation again.

How might Ebola improve the way in which vaccination and international aid efforts are perceived?

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