The World Health Organization has announced that the initial results of tests of a vaccine against Ebola are promising. The announcement was made by the organization's director general, Dr. Margaret Chan.
"If proven effective, this is going to be a game changer, and it will change the management of the current Ebola outbreak and future outbreaks," Chan said at a news conference.
"We believe that the world is on the verge of an efficacious Ebola vaccine," WHO's vaccine expert Marie Paule Kieny said at a briefing for reporters.
The trial tested the vaccine on about 4,000 people who had been in close contact with someone who had been confirmed to have Ebola. Initial results showed complete protection after 10 days. The vaccine is made by Merck and NewLink Genetics. The results were published online in the journal The Lancet.
The Gavi Alliance, an organization that buys vaccines in bulk for poor countries that would have trouble affording them, immediately said it would back an Ebola shot when it is approved.
"These communities need an effective vaccine sooner rather than later," Gavi's chief executive Seth Berkley said. "We need to be ready to act wherever the virus is a threat."
If approved, the vaccine could be used to help end the worst recorded outbreak of Ebola, which has killed more than 11,200 people in West Africa since it began in December 2013. The countries of Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone were hardest hit, but cases were seen in Nigeria and other countries in Africa and in Europe and the United States.
This trial and other vaccine trials were fast-tracked, with huge international effort as researchers raced to test potential therapies and vaccines while the virus was still circulating in West Africa.
"It was a race against time and the trial had to be implemented under the most challenging circumstances," said John-Arne Røttingen of Norway's Institute of Public Health, chair of the trial's steering group.