For Vaccines Needed in an Epidemic, Timing is Everything
Last week, scientists reported that an experimental vaccine against Ebola provides 100 per cent protection just 10 days after injection. While this is news worth celebrating, it is important to consider that the same vaccine was proven effective in monkeys 10 years ago.
"'We should have had an Ebola vaccine at least two or three years ago,' said Dr. Peter J. Hotez, the president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute and a science envoy at the State Department.
Only after the West African outbreak exploded last year did fresh urgency push experimental Ebola vaccines into trials. By the time the positive results were published, the outbreak was subsiding.
We can only guess how many lives might have been saved if this vaccine had passed muster before the outbreak, rather than after.
Now Dr. Hotez fears that history will repeat itself.
Another infectious disease may explode before a promising vaccine is proved safe and effective. 'Once again, the world will be caught flat-footed,' he said.
Vaccines are one of the great triumphs of science, but the way that modern medicine functions makes it hard to develop new ones. 'That model doesn’t work,' said Dr. Hotez. 'It hasn’t worked for decades, and it was really brought home with Ebola.'"